WOODLAND — With a relatively minor criminal history that included a pending drug charge, Yolo County jail inmate Dylan James Tunstall had earned a coveted spot on the jail’s outdoor work crew.
But sheriff’s department officials say the 18-year-old Woodland man blew that privilege Monday morning when he tried to escape from the jail during his lawn maintenance duties — just 25 minutes into his very first shift.
Now, Tunstall faces a felony escape charge and bail enhanced by $1 million.
Sheriff’s Capt. Larry Cecchettini said Tunstall, who was arrested April 15 for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, had been housed at the jail’s minimum-security Leinberger Center. He passed a thorough background check before being assigned to lawn maintenance duty, an outdoor job that Cecchettini said many inmates seek.
“Not only do they get work credits, but it does something to pass the time,” Cecchettini said. “He met the criteria to go out on the work crew.”
Cecchettini said Tunstall was one of two inmates being supervised by a jail correctional officer as they mowed the lawn outside the sheriff’s department administration building on East Gibson Road in Woodland. Shortly before 9 a.m., the mower became clogged, and the correctional officer bent over to inspect the problem.
That’s when Tunstall allegedly decided to make a break for it, running west over a berm toward the neighboring Woodland Community College campus, Cecchettini said.
But he didn’t go unnoticed. Another correctional officer taking a cigarette break near the berm saw Tunstall flee “and he gave chase,” Cecchettini said. Meanwhile, sheriff’s deputies and Woodland police officers also responded to the scene.
Tunstall then veered north across East Gibson Road into a vacant field behind the Bel Air shopping center, the officer still hot on his trail.
“When he got up on him, he ordered him down, and (Tunstall) gave up without incident,” Cecchettini said. Tunstall’s brush with freedom lasted about four minutes, the captain said.
Cecchettini said Tunstall would be transferred back to the main jail, and there is now a vacancy to fill on the outdoor work crew. Tunstall is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Yolo Superior Court on the felony escape charge.