Suspect loses pants in manhunt, continues his escape while naked, Florida cops say

·2 min read
Susan Cocking/Miami Herald file photo

A manhunt in north Florida took an odd turn when the suspect jumped in the Suwannee River, lost his pants and continued his hours-long flight while naked, according to the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office.

It happened Saturday, July 2, and the 50-year-old suspect was wanted for showing up at someone’s home in Branford “and refusing to leave,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. Branford is 85 miles southwest of Jacksonville.

Two deputies arrived at the rural home on 73rd Place to find the suspect had taken off running while “only wearing a pair of shorts,” officials said.

“Deputy (Pete) Merola gave chase until (the suspect) jumped in the river and began swimming away towards a floating dock and then hid under it,” the sheriff’s office said.

“Deputy (Larson) Zimmermann soon joined Deputy Merola, and the pair ordered (him) to come out, which he did, only to swim away again. ... As (the suspect) was swimming away, he lost his shorts and was now skinny dipping in the river until he came to a large u-shaped dock and hid underneath it.”

The deputies “played hide and seek” with the suspect for a couple of hours, as he appeared and disappeared under the dock, officials said.

“Eventually, (he) decided to make a break for it and began swimming across the river to the other side, but Deputy Zimmermann, with the assistance of the dock owner, chased after (him) in the dock owner’s boat,” the sheriff’s office said. “They captured (him) on the other riverbank.”

A photo shared by the sheriff’s office on Facebook shows the suspect was quickly given a life preserver — and a towel to cover himself.

The suspect, who lives in Gainesville, was charged with resisting arrest without violence and failure to appear in court in connection with a 2021 case that involved “driving while his license was suspended.”

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