COOLIDGE — Two inmates who escaped a state prison in Florence and caused a massive manhunt have been detained by Coolidge Police.
The department reported that around 9 a.m. Thursday two citizens reported they had a view of men who might be David Harmon and John Charpiot. Coolidge Police and U.S. deputy marshals reportedly captured and arrested the fugitives shortly after.
“We are so grateful to the community for stepping up and calling us on this,” said Coolidge Police Cmdr. Mark Tercero. “We are so glad that nobody involved got hurt.”
According to Tercero, at 9:09 a.m. police received a call from Joe Marquez, who was in a truck following some men walking in a farm field who he believed were the escaped inmates. He stayed on the phone with police while they were responding, providing a “play-by-play” of what the inmates were doing.
Around the same time, a woman called police to say her parents’ home had just been broken into by two men who then fled on foot. Then an unidentified Spanish-speaking person called police to say he was actually chasing the men on foot.
Tercero said coincidentally Coolidge Police were already talking with marshals about a separate case, so when they got the call they were ready to pursue immediately. They found the inmates north of Randolph Road and east of State Route 87 in a farm field.
The officers, Phillip Blouir and Alan Hoffman, and marshals shouted commands to get on the ground and not move, but the inmates kept moving away from the officers. Officers and marshals both deployed Tasers on the fugitives, and they both fell and needed to be seen by medical professionals.
“I think everybody acted very professional,” Tercero said.
The two men escaped Saturday from the medium custody South Unit of Arizona State Prison-Florence Complex. The alarm was sounded after Charpiot and Harmon weren’t accounted for during the 8:30 p.m. inmate count, after being there for the 4 p.m. count.
Authorities looking for the inmates earlier conducted door-to-door searches of homes in the area of the Florence prison. The state Department of Public Safety said the inmates allegedly tried to rob a Florence business Saturday night before running off when a clerk screamed for help.
The department tweeted out the information Tuesday afternoon with a security camera photo of the pair. Both men were wearing white long-sleeved shirts and not their prison-issued uniforms.
Both men have ongoing medical issues and were said to be likely to attempt to visit drug stores or pharmacies, according to DPS.
Tercero said it is up to the state to determine whether Marquez and the other informants would be eligible for the $70,000 reward placed on information that would lead to the capture of the two inmates.
“So as usual, Coolidge PD is doing a good job,” said Coolidge Mayor Jon Thompson. “We just so happened to be the ones who captured the convicts everyone was looking for throughout the state. So congratulations to the chief, Tercero, Officers Blouir, Hoffman and everyone else involved.”
COOLIDGE — Even as the pandemic has curtailed bus ridership, Coolidge plans to expand both its Cotton Express and Central Arizona Regional Transit service in the coming months.
The transit department was awarded $100,000 in Federal Transit Administration Section 5339 grant funding for installing new bus shelters at the end of last year for its service inside and outside the city.
This week the city began soliciting public opinion on where the future shelters could be optimally placed. Coolidge Transit Manager Eric Heet described the process as “organic” but said it would piggyback off the designs of similar shelters in the city of Maricopa.
According to Heet, the shelters will include ample shade for the summer months and be customizable in terms of paint color and maps. In total, the plan is to build 10 installations, split evenly between Coolidge and the CART route elsewhere.
“The need has been there,” Heet said. “Our normal services don’t have any legitimate bus shelters and with Coolidge getting to be over 100 degrees in the summer, this is the first step in getting them in hot spots around town.”
Heet said the shelters should be purchased and installed by the end of September. Final designs will come before the City Council at some point in February. Potential locations are technically restricted by zoning but Heet suggested Main Street and Ninth Street as areas with heavy ridership.
The pandemic has caused a decline in riders, although Heet said the numbers were picking up again. Overall in 2020, the transit system averaged around 1,500 riders per month, which is a 38% drop from prior years.
“People are a little more comfortable using public facilities again, getting out and about, which is encouraging,” Heet said. “We are hoping to see some growth in 2021, especially if we add the shelters. It’s an exciting concept.”
The transit department continues to sanitize the bus fleet on a daily basis and Heet said drivers continue to keep the buses safe and healthy for users.
COOLIDGE — When Joseph Marquez got in his truck to go to work Thursday morning, he expected to change out a gate. Instead, he helped police track down and locate two notorious fugitives.
Marquez, who works in field operations for Hohokam Irrigation and Power, said he was driving along Randolph Road when he saw what he thought looked like two Southwest Gas employees in an alfalfa field.
“I’m wondering, what are Southwest Gas employees doing out here?” Marquez said. “I didn’t see a truck. I looked a little closer and noticed they were escaped convicts.”
The two men, John B. Charpiot and David T. Harmon, had escaped from a medium security unit at Arizona State Prison in Florence on Saturday evening. According to Marquez, one convict waved his arms at him to get away, while both men kept walking. Marquez called 911 and stayed on the line as he followed them until police arrived.
As of Thursday afternoon, Marquez had not heard back from the U.S. Marshal’s Service office about the status of a $75,000 reward, but had been told someone would call him with more information.
“This morning I felt kind of sick to my stomach, just because of all the adrenaline,” Marquez said. “Now I feel relieved. Everybody can sleep well at night, everybody is more comfortable.”