Ex-convict briefly escaped though hole in police station ceiling

Michael Caruso removed an exhaust fan from the bathroom ceiling then climbed into the attic and out of the building


By Patricio G. Balona
The News-Journal

ORANGE CITY, Fla. — An ex-convict arrested on a shoplifting charge escaped from a police station by making a hole in the ceiling of a bathroom as an officer stood guard outside, investigators said.

After his Sunday arrest, Michael Caruso, 31, removed an exhaust fan from the bathroom ceiling, made the hole bigger then climbed into the attic and eventually out of the Orange City Police Department building, police reports state.

Michael Caruso (Photo/Orange City Police)
Michael Caruso (Photo/Orange City Police)

He was captured not long after but during the escape one resident he asked for a ride tried to hold him at gunpoint. Then another resident had to stop Caruso from entering his house, police said.

The incident is under an internal affairs investigation, said police Lt. Jason Sampsell on Monday.

Earlier Sunday, Caruso, a homeless man who served time for theft and burglary, knocked an officer to the ground as the officer tried to arrest the suspect at Kohl's, 1065 Harley Strickland Blvd. Police said Caruso stole a vacuum cleaner and a speaker with a combined value of $530. As the officer fell to the ground, his Taser discharged, but it did not hit anyone, police said.

Florida Department of Corrections records show Caruso was released Nov. 24 after serving one year in prison for four counts of grand theft and two counts of burglary.

Orange City police were called to the Kohl's about 5 p.m. Sunday, reporting the thefts. Caruso had also tried stealing merchandise from the store Friday night, a store employee told a dispatcher in a 9-1-1 call.

Caruso was arrested, taken to the police station and escaped less than two hours later, police said.

Caruso was in a holding cell as officers prepared his arrest paperwork before at the police department before he was to be taken to jail. While waiting, he repeatedly asked that he be allowed to use the bathroom. An officer escorted him, but stood outside to wait, reports state.

After a while the officer told Caruso to hurry up and the suspect answered, saying he needed two more minutes to wash his hands.

After the two minutes, the officer ordered Caruso out again, but this time got no answer. A sergeant joined the officer and they opened the door to the single-stall toilet to find that Caruso was gone, reports state.

Sampsell said Monday he could not comment on whether Caruso was handcuffed because of the ongoing internal investigation.

Left behind was a large hole in the ceiling where Caruso had removed the exhaust fan, made the hole bigger and climbed into the attic and got out of the police station, reports state. Police have not said where Caruso exited the building.

As officers pondered Caruso's escape, they got a call from a woman who told them Caruso showed up at a home about a mile a way and was in the garage. Caruso told the homeowner, Zachary Colangelo, that he needed a ride because he had just escaped from the police. Colangelo told Caruso he was going inside to get his keys but instead got his gun and asked his girlfriend to call 9-1-1, investigators said.

"Apparently there is somebody in our garage that is running from the police," Colangelo's girlfriend told a dispatcher.

The woman said Colangelo was mowing the yard when he heard the dogs barking. The dogs only bark when people come around the house, the woman said.

"He went into the garage and the guy was in the garage," Colangelo's girlfriend said to the dispatcher.

Colangelo then went outside and, pointing the gun at Caruso, ordered the suspect to the ground. Caruso ran off. Later he tried to get into another home but was pushed out of the house, police said.

"He actually did run out of our garage and he is going around back," the woman said.

A K-9 officer then spotted Caruso running on Crittendon Avenue where he was finally recaptured with the help of a police dog, reports indicate. Caruso has added more than a half-dozen charges including grand theft, escape and burglary to several new probation violations. He was being held without bail Monday at the Volusia County Branch Jail, the situation he was trying to avoid.

Officers said Caruso told them why he ran: "He said he didn't want to go back to prison."

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©2017 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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