Hawaii fugitive arrested in Bangs

Steve Nash steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Joseph Frye

BANGS —Police Chief Jorge Camarillo was certain the man he was looking at late Monday afternoon was the man he sought — a fugitive from Hawaii.

Camarillo didn’t want to spook the man, who was standing in a yard on Snow Street in Bangs. Camarillo wanted to engage the man in conversation and catch him off guard.

The man started walking toward a garage when he saw Camarillo pull up in his patrol vehicle.

“Excuse me, sir?” Camarillo addressed the man. “May I speak with you?”

“Yeah?” the man replied.

“Hey, come here. How’s everything going?”

“Why, what’s going on?”

“What’s your name?”

“Joseph.”

“Joseph Frye?” Camarillo showed the man a photo of himself. “That’s you, isn’t it?” 

The man admitted his identity.

“Joseph,” Camarillo addressed the man. “Turn around and put your hands behind your back. I’ve got a warrant for your arrest.”

In a matter of minutes, Joseph Michael Frye, 36, was in custody after weeks on the run from Hawaii authorities. A grand jury in Hawaii indicted Frye in March on charges including manslaughter stemming from a December 2014 auto accident in Hawaii, according to multiple online press accounts.

Brown County Jail records, where Frye remained Tuesday in lieu of $100,000 bond, list the charge against him as “homicide — negligent manslaughter,” a second degree felony.

Camarillo, who provided details of Frye’s arrest when the Bulletin contacted him by phone, did not know if Frye had a previous connection to Bangs. He said Frye had been living Bangs, where his girlfriend lives, after fleeing Hawaii.

The accident

Frye was living in a city called Koloa on the island of Hawaiian Island of Kauai when he was involved in the fatal accident, according to online sites including www.thegardenisland.com.

On Dec. 6, Frye was driving a Ford 150 truck on a Kauai highway when he tried to pass a Ford Mustang by moving onto the right-hand shoulder. Frye’s truck clipped the Mustang’s front end, and which caused his truck to enter oncoming traffic and collide with a Chevrolet sedan, the website reported.

The Chevrolet’s 56-year-old driver was killed, according to the website.

It was unclear from the online accounts when Frye became a fugitive.

‘You might have a fugitive in your town’

About a month ago, Camarillo estimated, he received a phone call from a district attorney’s investigator in Hawaii. “I’m thinking you might have a fugitive in your town,” the investigator told Camarillo.

Hawaii authorities knew Frye was dating a girl and they had leads as to several towns she might be in — including Bangs. “She’s got family all down there somewhere,” the investigator told Camarillo.

The investigator told Camarillo the name of the woman and the license plate of the car she was believed to be driving.

“Let me see if I can do some research on him and see if I can find him,” Camarillo replied.

Camarillo saw that Frye and the woman had been communicating through Facebook and learned that the woman did live in Bangs. Putting on a front of being on casual patrol, he drove down her street several times and saw the woman outside. He also saw a man outside who he suspected might be Frye.

Camarillo saw that the man had a routine of leaving the the home where he stayed early in the morning and returning around 4 p.m. Once, he saw the man mowing the grass.

‘400, 401, come on in’

About a week ago, Camarillo received an email from Hawaii saying investigators there no longer believed Frye might be in Bangs. The author of the email thanked Camarillo for his help.

But Camarillo wasn’t convinced, and he wasn’t ready to give up. 

Late Monday afternoon, Camarillo decided he was going to try to determine if that man was Frye, and if so, make an arrest.

“Today’s my day off, but let’s go check,” Camarillo told Mike Isbell, the only other full-time officer on the Bangs police force.

Camarillo instructed Isbell to drive to Snow Street, but to keep back — unless Camarillo radioed for him to “come on in.” If that happened, Isbell was to quickly position himself to prevent Frye from going inside the house in an attempt to elude officers.

Camarillo saw the man standing by the garage.

“Four hundred, 401,” Camarillo radioed, giving his radio number and then Isbell’s. “Come on in.”

It happened quick. Camarillo began speaking with the man, who turned out to be Frye.

“He was cooperative — polite, I guess,” Camarillo recalled.

Frye asked if he could say say good-bye to his girlfriend, and Camarillo allowed the two to speak briefly before driving him away.

Camarillo, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, went to work as a patrolman in Bangs last October and was named police chief in December. He’s experienced in serving warrants: before working in Bangs, Camarillo worked as a deputy constable in Williamson County.

Camarillo also worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety as a capitol police officer, the Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Travis County Constable's Office, and also assisted the U.S. Marshal's Office on a fugitive task force.