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California

Fugitive Kern County deputy captured after daring escape

A Kern County deputy who slipped out of his handcuffs and escaped from a patrol cruiser earlier this week was captured at the home of an acquaintance Thursday afternoon, police said.

Edward Tucker, a 44-year-old deputy who was arrested twice last week and believed to be under the influence of methamphetamine both times, was captured at 3:20 p.m. at a home in Oildale, outside of Bakersfield, according to Ray Pruitt, a sheriff’s office spokesman.

Pruitt said Tucker was found in the garage of a home in the 700 block of Arvin Street, where he was arrested without incident. Tucker was not armed at the time of his arrest.

The deputy will face additional charges in connection with the escape, according to Pruitt, and detectives are interviewing the people who lived at the home where he was found. It was not clear whether they would also face charges.

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“We’re still in the process of trying to determine exactly where he’s been for the almost two days since he escaped custody,” Pruitt said. “At least part of that time he was at the home where he was located.”

Tucker’s Houdini-like escape wowed even his boss, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood. But it wasn’t a trick the veteran sheriff ever wanted to see.

Tucker, the deputy, had turned into “Mr. Tucker,” the man under arrest. And as he sat in the back seat of a sheriff’s cruiser at the county jail’s receiving facility, Tucker was about to pull off an improbable escape.

Youngblood would later watch a video that showed Tucker slipping his handcuffs before quietly pulling open the door handle from the outside and crouching as he slowly walked away. Two deputies, who had cracked open the window after he told them he felt nauseated, were focused on a computer, filling out an incident report, and missed the whole thing.

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“You want to scream to the video: ‘Wake up! Look to your right!’” Youngblood said.

They did not and Tucker became the subject of a nearly two-day long manhunt.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Youngblood said during a news conference. “You just can’t.”

As Tucker walked away, he placed an item in his pocket. Youngblood believes it might have been a key for the handcuffs.

Tucker was arrested twice in the last week, and was reportedly found to be under the influence of methamphetamine in both incidents, the sheriff said. Tucker has been on approved, unpaid leave from the sheriff’s office since October 2014.

Tucker’s recent problems started Saturday night, when he approached a group of girls in southwest Bakersfield. According to Youngblood, Tucker was nonsensical and asked the girls a question, then told them he didn’t believe the girls’ response.

At some point, he flashed a handgun at the girls, who then ran home and told adults about what happened, officials said. When deputies showed up, Tucker ducked into his car and was arrested.

Inside his vehicle, deputies found five handguns, two shotguns and an assault rifle, sheriff’s officials said. Deputies also found a small amount of what appeared to be methamphetamine.

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Tucker was booked into a jail and later posted bail.

On Tuesday, a retired deputy asked sheriff’s officials to check on Tucker’s welfare after receiving suicidal text messages from him.

Deputies tracked him to a park in northwest Bakersfield. According to officials, the deputies found drugs, firearms and an explosive detonating cord.

They arrested Tucker, placed him the back of the patrol car and drove to the jail.

That’s where he made his vanishing act.

“This is not a sheriff’s deputy were are looking for,” the sheriff said before Tucker’s arrest Thursday. “This is a crankster. This is someone who is abusing drugs. Someone who is a danger to the citizens we serve.”

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Suspects trying to get away from deputies is nothing new. But Youngblood said this is the most elaborate escape he can remember.

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“This is not common by any stretch of the imagination,” Youngblood said.

Youngblood said the deputies did not immediately escort Tucker inside the jail. Sheriff’s officials had locked down the facility because Tucker is a deputy.

After walking away from the sheriff’s cruiser, Tucker ran up the parking ramp and took off.

The sheriff’s office will be investigating the deputies’ actions and how to prevent such an escape from happening again.

“The question that really is in the forefront in my mind is: Why weren’t you paying attention to this suspect that was in the car?” Youngblood said.

For breaking news in California, follow @VeronicaRochaLA and @JamesQueallyLAT

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