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VIDEOS: Jail inmate escapes van, runs through neighborhood

Smith County Jail inmate Timothy Chappelle's mugshot. (Smith County Jail)
January 11, 2023

A Texas jail inmate became the star of multiple viral videos after making his escape from a transport van and running through a neighborhood in the city of Tyler.

Smith County jail inmate Timothy Chappelle kicked out one of the van’s windows on Jan. 3 while it was stopped at a red light on a six-lane divided highway. Chappelle jumped out and made a run for it, local news outlet KLTV reported.

He broke into two houses, one of which was occupied, on Wisteria Drive, a residential street that intersects the highway, before being arrested again by several deputies.

But before that, people outside a business filmed themselves laughing and shouting at Chappelle as he ran through a parking lot and climbed over a chain-link fence. A deputy follows close behind, but stops short of climbing the fence after him.

“He gone, y’all,” a person shouts.

Later in the neighborhood, TikTok user @chadroo76 captured the escaped inmate on video through the window of his truck.

“They’re gonna get you, man!” the TikTok user shouts.

“I know, man. Give me a ride,” Chappelle calls back.

“Hell no,” the user responds. “They’re gonna get you.”

Another video posted on YouTube by CBS 19 showed the escaped inmate being detained and arrested in the yard of a residence.

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Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said Chappelle was being transported from a low-risk facility to the main downtown jail, KLTV reported. He blamed Chappelle’s escape on “poor upfitting” of the van, adding, “We’re going to be retrofitting that with bars.”

Smith County jail records show that Chappelle had previously been charged with criminal mischief causing damage between $2,500 and $30,000, which under Texas law is a state felony punishable by up to two years in jail.

He’s now also facing two felony charges of burglary of a habitation and another felony for escaping while arrested, resulting in more than $1.3 million in new bonds.