By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
No charges will be lodged against a local man who triggered a tense and massive mini-manhunt by local law enforcement last week when he dropped from a tree into the backyard of an Atmore residence.
Police Chief Chuck Brooks said this week he didn’t expect that the man, who was struggling with internal challenges and whose name has not been released, would be charged with any criminal act.
“All I know (about the incident) is that he has some mental issues,” the police chief said. “There was nobody hurt, so no criminal charges have been filed. He had threatened his family, and they agreed that he has mental issues. He’s now getting help for those issues.”
The incident began shortly after 10 a.m. when emergency dispatchers radioed to police a report from a Horner Street resident who told them a “black man with a knife, wearing pants but no shirt,” had dropped from a tree in the backyard of his home.
One of the resident’s dogs gave chase, but the knife-carrying suspect — later determined to be a white man — ran across the yard, climbed a wire fence and zig-zagged through the yards of neighboring homes until he disappeared.
“He jumped down about the time I saw him,” said Schuyler Allen, who said he was enjoying the calm of a summer morning when the bizarre incident took place. “He jumped into a popcorn tree from either my shed or off the roof of my house, then jumped down from there.”
The unannounced visitor brought Allen’s dogs to full alert.
“My big dog chased him across the yard, and my Chihuahua was barking,” Allen said. “He climbed the fence between my yard and the neighbor’s yard and ran off. I didn’t see which way he went.”
City police and at least one Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputy — confident their suspect was within a rectangle formed by Medical Park Drive, Cloverdale Road, Horner Street and 9th Avenue — began a systematic search for him.
Police with drawn Tasers manned each corner of the rectangle, while other lawmen conducted searches of residential yards and outbuildings within the area of focus.
The man reportedly ditched his weapon while trying to elude police and was eventually discovered and taken into custody without further incident.
Allen, an amateur stargazer, said the odds of such an incident happening were astronomical.
“It’s the craziest thing,” he mused. “Where did he come from? Why was he in my tree? I can’t imagine. He could have gone into any number of yards; why did he pick this one?”
News photo by Ditto Gorme