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How two Florence prison inmates escaped in 2021 and were captured

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Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-06 19:04:10-05

FLORENCE, AZ — Using newly obtained reports and videos, ABC15 retraced the steps of two Arizona prison escapees and found that the successful capture of the fugitives led many people to overlook the ‘catastrophic' prison security failings during the 2021 escape.

John Charpiot, 50, and David Harmon 62, escaped on January 23, 2021, from Florence Prison’s South Unit.

On the morning of January 28, 2021, a 911 caller alleged Charpiot and Harmon assaulted a rural Pinal County couple at their home and tried to steal their car. A team of deputy U.S. Marshals and Coolidge police officers was nearby.

“I would define luck as when preparation meets opportunity,” said Deputy Marshal Jake Pool.

Pool revisited the arrest site in 2022 with ABC15.

“The cotton has been freshly topped, you know, and you can see them clear as day running in their prison uniforms,” Pool said. “We literally converge on them in the middle of this field about 200 yards to the north here.”

Pool remembers the men were filthy and muddy. The weather was cold and rainy during the search. The fugitives were captured 11 miles away from the prison.

“They obviously knew that the gig was up, and they were going back to prison,” Pool said.

The prison break ended with tasering, takedowns, and no one seriously hurt, which may be why so little focus was put on the security failings inside Florence Prison’s South Unit prior to the escape.

When the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry publicly released their investigative reports about the escape in December 2021, dozens of pages were blacked out completely.

ABC15 dug deeper and found prison workers - past and present – are now willing to speak out about security problems.

“We need outside people in here, looking at every prison and destroying it, taking it apart, and asking the hard questions,” said Shaun Holland, a former assistant deputy warden at Lewis Prison who exposed past prison security failings and was fired in 2020.

Holland watched a video, obtained by ABC15, which shows Florence prison officials retracing Charpiot and Harmon’s movement through the prison during the escape.

Holland noticed missing razor wire, tools improperly stored, unlocked security gates, and missed opportunities for prison staff to notice the inmates as they walked away from their dorm, past multiple cameras, and through perimeter security systems.

He called the security failures “catastrophic.”

ADCRR put out a media release noting improvements to physical security, storage systems, and security procedure audits. The department declined ABC15’s request for an interview.

Got a news tip? Email ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius at Melissa.Blasius@abc15.com. Stay informed on all Melissa's stories by following her on Twitter and Facebook.