Man Wanted in Two Counties, Accused of Escaping Jail and Shooting a Deputy
By Jesse B. Gill
Darnell Washington has a tattoo on his right forearm reading, “by any means.” The phrase no doubt means enough to the man to permanently emblazon it upon himself, but on Aug. 28, the phrase took new meaning.
That was the day Washington escaped from jail, launching a new chapter in the story of a man who seems to be willing to resort to any means to stay free, including (allegedly) escaping from jail and later shooting a sheriff’s deputy.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has been reluctant to release any details about Washington’s escape, which is likely because they don’t want the general public knowing how to go about escaping from Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center if they ever needed to.
Washington, 24, found himself in Glen Helen in March 2011, after he was arrested and charged with using a gun to rob two women in Rancho Cucamonga. He was also charged with receiving stolen property as part of that same case.
And that wasn’t the first time Washington had serious run-ins with the law. A Los Angeles jury convicted him of robbery and carjacking in August 2005 – when he was 17.
Washington was awaiting trial at Glen Helen. His jury trial was set to start Sept. 17 – it’s still scheduled for that day, despite the fact that Washington has forced his way out of custody.
And escape was likely Washington’s only option (apart from, you know, actually attending the trial), as a judge increased his bail from $600,000 to $1.5 million just days after presiding over a preliminary hearing in May.
Fast forward to Aug. 27. That’s when (according to San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials) Washington broke out of Glen Helen. As we mentioned earlier, the details of the escape haven’t been released but officials said Washington was aided in his escape by his 25-year-old wife, Tania.
And a look at the charging documents reveal a man named Brandon Marzell Butler also lent a hand in the escape. How much of a hand he lent, we’re not sure, but it was enough to convince prosecutors to charge him along with Tania Washington with aiding a prisoner’s escape – a felony.
We asked sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller about Butler’s involvement in the escape, but she said she hadn’t heard of him before we inquired about him. San Bernardino County criminal courts have certainly heard of him. He was arrested in June and charged with robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and participating in a street gang (he’s pleaded not guilty to all charges). He was also convicted in September 2009 of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or co-habitant.
So after Darnell Washington escaped Glen Helen, sheriff’s officials put out a wanted poster with his mug splashed all over it, saying he was most likely driving a ’94 white Ford Explorer.
It wasn’t long before we heard from the young man again.
Just a few days after the escape, on Sept. 2, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy spotted a white Ford Explorer about 9 a.m. near a burger joint near the intersection of Durfee Avenue and Michael Hunt Drive (we’re not making that up) in South El Monte.
Said deputy ran the Explorer’s plates and lo and behold, they matched the plates on the Explorer San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials say Washington was driving when he flew the coop.
The deputy called for backup, but Darnell and Tania Washington exited the burger joint before that backup arrived and the deputy was forced to confront them, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials.
Darnell grabbed a shotgun out of the Explorer, officials said, and that’s when bullets (and shells, if you wanna get all technical with it) started flying.
When the smoke cleared, the deputy had been hit and Darnell and Tania Washington ran away on foot, before allegedly carjacking a ’96 Plymouth Voyager. (The plates on that Voyager? 3PHK484, for those eagle-eyed readers out there.)
Paramedics airlifted the deputy to a nearby hospital where he was treated and has since been released.
Darnell and Tania Washington have been in the wind ever since. Obviously, both the San Bernardino and Los Angeles County sheriff’s departments are searching high and low for the Washingtons (and Brandon Butler, for that matter), and anyone who spots them is urged to call 911.
We asked Miller where the couple would be jailed if and when they’re ever arrested. She said the answer’s not so straightforward.
“It is difficult to state exactly what would happen upon (Darnell’s) capture, because it depends on where he is apprehended,” Miller wrote in an email.
And where he’ll be jailed will depend on whether or not he has committed any other crimes in the jurisdiction he’s apprehended in. Same goes for Tania.
Darnell Washington is armed and dangerous, according to officials from both counties. And judging by his forearm tattoo and the events of the last two weeks, he doesn’t plan to allow himself to be taken back to anyone’s jail any time soon.
Email Jesse B. Gill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jessebgillcrime.