Facebook / Atascosa Sheriffs Office
An escaped inmate died in a police shootout Tuesday night, three days after he mysteriously slipped out of a sheriff's car transporting him to Live Oak County Jail.
The county sheriff's office said 36-year-old Jake Childers was killed by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers in Campbellton, a town 50 miles south of San Antonio — and Texas Rangers are currently investigating the incident. How Childers got that far while avoiding the eye of actively searching officers — and managed to shed his heavy leg irons, acquire an arsenal of weapons, and get a new wardrobe in the meantime — is a question that's left local law enforcement stumped.
According to Sheriff Larry Busby, Childers was returning to the jail from a doctor's appointment when he somehow climbed out of an unlocked window in the caged backseat of a sheriff vehicle — while his hands were cuffed and legs shackled.
"[The officers in the front seat] heard a noise back there...but they thought it was just him being restless," Busby told Corpus Christi's KRIS6 News
on Tuesday. "But they drove in to the compound, and when they looked back, he was gone."
Busby blamed the officers' misstep on bad visibility from the metal caging and the time of day. "But they still should have checked better," he added.
Childers' escape came a day after he took an officer hostage (using a broken piece of plastic as a weapon) in the jail's recreation room. Childers badly injured three officers before they wrangled him back behind bars.
After his escape, officers and a pack of hound dogs spent the entire night — Christmas Eve — trying, unsuccessfully, to track down the inmate.
Childers had better luck. Shortly after hopping out of the car, Childers, still in shackles, ran across an acquaintance working on his truck, and asked him to borrow his phone. The man refused, but abandoned his unlocked truck, telling Childers he was going to "find a phone" (Busby said the man was looking for an excuse to get away from the inmate). Still, the acquaintance had conveniently left bolt cutters, a kitchen knife, overalls, and a hat inside his truck. When the guy returned, he found Childers' broken handcuffs on the ground.
Next, Busby said, Childers stole four shotguns and three handguns from a nearby hunting camp. Then he headed to his own house.
It seemed the officers were always 15 minutes or so behind Childers — in some cases, almost comically missing him. Despite the fact that many officers were watching Childers' house the evening of his escape, he somehow managed to open the front gate, go inside, and take a shower that evening without their knowledge.
Officers even hopped in a helicopter to try to locate Childers, who was initially arrested for illegally fishing on private property. Busby said he had a history of escaping county jails — and was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood.
"He's hard to describe," Busby said, prior to his death. "He's just determined not to return to prison."
According to KRIS6, a combination of K-9 units, helicopters, and on-foot officers finally found Childers hiding in thick brush near Campbellton around 9 p.m. Tuesday. Childers reportedly shot at the SWAT team with a revolver, prompting the officers to fire back, killing the former inmate.