Fleeing man found hiding behind tree

OKEECHOBEE — After leading police on a brief foot chase in the northeast section of the city, a man was finally apprehended Wednesday as he tried to hide behind a tree in a N.E. Third Street yard.

Police arrested Serafin Espinoza Ruiz, 24, March 22 on a felony charge of fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer. He was also arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.

He is being held in the Okeechobee County Jail on a $5,500 bond.

An arrest report by Officer Luis Rojas, of the Okeechobee City Police Department (OCPD), indicated his involvement with the case started at 1:47 a.m. Wednesday when he answered a reckless driver complaint. The complainant reportedly told the officer the driver of a white Mitsubishi was spinning his tires and doing donuts in front of McDonald’s restaurant on S.R. 70 East.

When OCPD Sergeant Dawn Wendt went to the restaurant, she apparently saw the car in question at the eatery’s drive-through window. When the driver of the white car saw the blue lights flashing on the OCPD patrol unit he allegedly hit the gas, squealed his tires and tried to flee.

With Officer Rojas behind him, the driver of the Mitsubishi — later identified as Espinoza — turned east onto N.E. Second Street and drove down an alley between N.E. Fifth Avenue and N.E. Sixth Avenue.

“The vehicle slid to a stop and I observed the driver, a Hispanic male, exit the vehicle from the driver’s door and begin to nun north behind the residence,” noted Officer Rojas.

The fleeing man continued to flee in a northerly direction by hurdling fences and running through peoples’ yards, added the officer.

OCPD Officer Michael Jordan later found Espinoza crouching behind a tree and placed him under arrest at that point.

An 18-year-old man in the car with Espinoza was later arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.

He was booked into the county jail on a bond of $500, and was still in jail as of Thursday afternoon.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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