In a significant development in Duval County, five individuals have been charged with felonies after allegedly facilitating the escape of an inmate, triggering a substantial multi-agency search.
The breakout, which transpired early Friday, led to an impressive mobilization of law enforcement, with over 100 officers from various levels of government—county, state, and federal—converging on the city of San Diego to locate the fugitive, Andres Tunchez.
Despite the extensive search effort, two accomplices remain elusive. Duval County Sheriff Romeo Ramirez highlighted that the search continues for these individuals, including Ashlee Ann Garcia. Sheriff Ramirez noted the support network for Tunchez, stating, “They did keep him comfortable while he was on the run by providing him food, water, and things like that.”
The turning point in the search came following a tip from Jim Wells County Constable Jim Long, who reported that Tunchez was believed to be in an abandoned house in Sandia. This led to a stakeout where law enforcement spotted Tunchez’s cousin arriving to pick him up. This sighting spurred immediate action. “Conducted a felony stop on the vehicle and had positive ID of our suspect,” reported Duval County Sgt. Lucas Wallek.
Prior to this development, a thorough search had been underway in San Diego, with officers meticulously scouring the area street by street. The Department of Public Safety was active both in the skies and on the ground, trying to track down Tunchez.
The search saw the participation of the US Marshals, but it was the keen senses of a bloodhound from the state prison in Edinburg that proved crucial. The dog uncovered a pair of handcuffs and a jail sweatshirt discarded by Tunchez, evidence of his flight from custody.
These findings underscore the relentless efforts of the law enforcement agencies involved and the crucial role of service animals in police work. Sheriff Ramirez lauded the collaborative effort, which not only demonstrated the commitment of multiple agencies but also the effectiveness of their concerted efforts.
In the aftermath, Sheriff Ramirez acknowledged the need for tighter security measures at the jail. The escape highlighted deficiencies, particularly with the security gates, which failed to function as intended and did not prevent Tunchez’s escape. Plans are underway to address these vulnerabilities to prevent similar incidents in the future.
This case exemplifies the complexity and challenges of maintaining security within correctional facilities and the importance of inter-agency cooperation. The extensive search not only serves as a testament to the dedication of law enforcement officers but also as a stark reminder of the lengths to which individuals will go to evade justice. As the search for the remaining accomplices continues, the community awaits the swift administration of justice.