Brandy Boyer is thankful she was 10 minutes late in leaving for work Saturday morning. Otherwise, the Department of Corrections officer said, she wouldn't have spotted and helped capture an escaped prison inmate.
"Had I left at my normal time, I probably wouldn't have seen him," she said in an interview Monday. "I was in the right place at the right time."
Boyer was driving on Northeast Ward Road just past Northeast 88th Street on her way to Larch Corrections Center for her shift when a man walking on the opposite side of the road caught her attention: he was wearing the prison-issued outfit of gray sweatpants, a white T-shirt over a white thermal long-sleeve shirt and a khaki stocking cap.
"The minute I saw him, I knew that has to be one of our guys," she said. "My gut instinct was to call up to work."
Upon talking to her sergeant, Boyer learned that when officers did the morning count of inmates at 4:45 a.m., there was one inmate missing. The agency was in the middle of doing a "picture count," a process they go through to confirm who the missing person is.
She kept a visual on the man, later identified as David Daniel McElroy, 28, and called 911 to get help in taking him into custody. McElroy ran away from Boyer once he knew she had spotted him. He jumped a fence and hid in some blackberry bushes in the backyard of a residence at 9422 N.E. Ward Road.
Boyer waited outside the front of a residence until Clark County sheriff's Deputy Rick Osborn and a Vancouver Police Officer Roger Evans and canine Eron responded. After the police dog bit McElroy, the three officers took him into custody.
McElroy started his prison stay on Dec. 24, 2011, for two counts of burglary and for having a stolen vehicle, stolen property and methamphetamine. He was scheduled to complete his sentence on Nov. 1, 2016.
Now, he faces a charge of first-degree escape, which could add as much as seven years to his sentence.
He remains in the Clark County Jail with no bail and is scheduled to be arraigned May 31.
It appears that McElroy climbed on top of a garbage can to scale the nearly 10-foot-high fence at Larch and used towels and a pillow to shield himself from the razor wire attached to the top, according to a probable cause affidavit.
He made it about 18 miles from Larch, which is in the Yacolt Burn State Forest about five miles east of Hockinson, before Boyer saw him.
Larch Corrections Center spokeswoman Danette Gadberry said that they are still in the middle of an internal investigation to see if other inmates were involved in the escape plan and to prevent future escapes.
"We learn a lot from these things," Gadberry said. The last escaped inmate incident happened on Dec. 9, 2009, she said.
And while she's getting praise at work, Boyer said she was just doing her job.
"The minute we put our uniform on and we leave home, we're on duty," she said. Even though she wasn't technically on the clock, Boyer said, "It's still our job if something happens to help the public."