Man on the Run
The TWO RIVERS TRIBUNE
He is the most wanted man in Humboldt County; a man that more people want to see captured than imaginable. Even people who don’t know him, want him behind bars for the killing of a well-respected and loved man in the Klamath-Trinity community.
His name is Jason Bruce ‘J-Bird’ Hunsucker. He is the last of four suspects wanted by law enforcement in connection with the homicide of Darrell Hanger, which occurred at his son’s home around 1am on May 5.
Hunsucker has been running from the law a majority of his adult life; in and out of jail and prison for numerous crimes, mostly associated with methamphetamines and theft/burglary.
But, this time he is on the run of his life, or as he put it ‘for his life.’ The community at-large is, to say the least, infuriated and fed up with Hunsucker’s lifelong history of wrongdoings. The manhunt has turned into a community effort, not to mention one of the biggest efforts organized by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD).
The preliminary hearing began in Humboldt County Superior Court last week and all but Hunsucker’s testimony will be heard by a judge in the coming days. Hunsucker contacted freelance reporter, Shelly Middleton, over the phone last week and was eager to tell his side of the story.
The call was placed from a blocked number and was made to Middleton’s personal cell phone. Hunsucker would not disclose his location, but simply wanted to let the community know his version of the occurrences on that fateful morning when Hanger was killed.
Hunsucker said he was asked to drive his sister Sonia Hunsucker and her boyfriend Jackson Surber to the residence to burglarize the home. He was driving a stolen vehicle, a 2006 silver Toyota Tacoma, but didn’t say whether or not he was responsible for the theft of the truck.
Hunsucker was with his girlfriend, Samantha Smoker-Machado, who he said came along for the ride, but did not intend to participate in the burglary.
He said they pulled into the driveway, a short paved entrance way about 20 ft. long that connected to a carport.
“Someone with us said something had been moved, so we started to back out,” he said.
Hunsucker said Sonia and Surber had previously burglarized the same residence and went back with the impression that nobody was home.
“Before I could even hit reverse, I seen people running up behind us,” he said. “I locked my door real fast and yelled at everybody else to lock their doors too.”
Hunsucker said he was having a difficult time keeping the vehicle running and placing it in reverse because a screwdriver was used to start the vehicle when it was stolen.
He said two subjects with guns raised ran up behind the truck and ordered them to exit the vehicle. Hunsucker said Darrell Hanger opened Smoker’s door and “grabbed her by the shirt,” ordering her to the ground.
“He said, ‘You fuckin’ thieves get on the ground. I’m gonna’ show you what we do to thieves,’” said Hunsucker.
He said he quickly got the truck started back up and about the same time, Hanger let Smoker go and she ran back to the truck and jumped back into the passenger seat.
“Everybody was screaming, begging them to ‘please don’t shoot, please don’t shoot,’” said Hunsucker.
When asked if he knew there was a loaded gun in their vehicle, Hunsucker said no. He also said he was not the shooter, however he would not confirm whether Surber or Sonia was the shooter, but did say the shots fired came from the back seat.
As he began to back out, Hunsucker said the subjects began shooting at the vehicle and he and Smoker crouched down to avoid getting hit.
“It was so smoky, I couldn’t see anything,” he said. “There was shots everywhere around me…the dashboard was exploding and things were being blown apart.”
He said he could feel a bullet enter his body and Smoker jump on top of him in an attempt to try and protect him from being shot.
Hunsucker said the truck stalled out again during the gunfire and just then he looked up and saw one of the subjects fall to the ground and roll toward the truck in the yard.
“When it was all said and done, I thought I was gonna’ look over and everybody would be dead,” he said.
When the shooting stopped, Hunsucker said he looked down and saw blood saturating his coat.
“I knew we needed to get out of there. I thought I was dying. I was in pain,” he said.
When asked if he felt compelled to first attempt to try and help the man he saw fall to the ground, he answered, “I thought I was dying myself, so I couldn’t have helped him. He had people there to help him, people who wanted to kill me.”
Smoker attempted to help him exit the vehicle and the two of them ran off in one direction, while Sonia and Surber ran in another direction.
He said the next hour was a blur, with him and Smoker running through the bushes in the pitch dark attempting to find someone who would give them a ride out of the area. He said they first went to a nearby neighbor’s home and Smoker knocked on the door and asked for a ride.
They told the woman who answered the door that they had been in a car accident and that they were both drinking so they didn’t want to get the police involved. Hunsucker said the woman who answered the door said she would ask her husband’s permission to give them a ride, but he said no so they took off walking again.
“We kept waiting for the police to come and they didn’t,” he said.
Hunsucker said as time went on, and the two continued to walk and try to find help, he began feeling weaker due to the gunshot wounds he sustained.
“I was starting to space out. I didn’t know where I was,” he said.
The two came upon another house. Smoker went to the front door, knocked and a woman answered. Smoker again told the woman the same story, that the couple has got into a car accident, and that they needed to ride.
This time it worked and the woman agreed to drive them to a friends house near the golf course.
Once they arrived at their friend’s house, Hunsucker contacted a family member, who agreed to drive them to Eureka. Hunsucker claims he did not tell his family what happened, but that they had gotten into a wreck.
However, the following day, once they got news that Hanger had died, Hunsucker’s family member in Eureka asked him to leave. He said he then visited a friend in the area that was a physician and his wounds were cleaned.
Hunsucker said he was shot three times, but has four wounds, one which he believes to be an exit wound. He said he lost movement in his left hand and cannot move his left wrist as a result of the shooting.
When asked if he plans on turning himself in, Hunsucker said no.
“It’s better living life on the run, than living life in a cell,” he said.
When asked if he will surrender if law enforcement catches up to him, Hunsucker replied, “I’m gonna run, and I’m gonna run as fast as I can. I’m not gonna’ shoot. I have no bad intentions towards the cops.”
Hunsucker also said he is not the cold-blooded killer that many are making him out to be.
“I’m not a killer at all. I’m not a threat to anyone…I didn’t go there with the intention of hurting anyone and I’m sorry for what happened, especially to the Sylvia family, who I grew up with. That was a great loss to me. I have a lot of love for that family. I understand that man was trying to protect his property, but we begged for our lives and they weren’t gonna stop,” he said.
He admits to being a lifelong criminal and said methamphetamine is the root to his problems.
“I’ve been a criminal all my life. I’m like Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde when I’m sober and when I’m not,” said Hunsucker. “There’s no excuse for what I’ve done in the past. I don’t know…I guess it’s something I’ve grown up doing.”
Hunsucker said he does have remorse for what happened to Hanger and his family and said he did not go to the residence to harm anyone.
“Its like impending doom…like a nightmare,” he said.
In order to be fair to all parties involved, the TRT attempted to contact Ryan Hanger, a witness to the crime, however we were asked not to call again and that he would not talk to the media.