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Police capture man dressed as woman after wild chase

TAMPA — Jermonte Jerome Thornton had been out of prison only nine months after serving more than a year for a cocaine conviction.

When Tampa police moved in Wednesday afternoon to arrest him on a warrant that could return him to prison, Thornton fought back, officers said.

Police said Thornton led officers on a dramatic two-hour chase in which he rammed three police vehicles, nearly knocked down a tree, was shot by police, invaded a woman's apartment, donned her clothes and wig to disguise himself, then vaulted off a second-floor balcony.

Police sicced a dog on Thornton, 27, and finally arrested him.

The chain of events began about 2 p.m. when police surrounded Thornton's car at a Sulphur Springs address. He rammed three vehicles, then a tree, almost knocking it over and putting officers in danger of getting run over, police said.

Cpl. Bryon Hoskins and Officer Tim Bergman shot into Thornton's car, hitting him once. But Thornton rammed his way out of the blockade, police said.

Officers pursued Thornton to Scruggs Manor Apartments at 11201 N 22nd St., where he ditched the car, they said.

Then he ran into the nearby Lenox Place Apartments, trailing blood the whole way.

"He lost a considerable amount of blood in his car," police Chief Jane Castor said.

Police say he knocked on unit B207 and said: "It's me." Thinking it was her boyfriend, Tydarreia Watkins, 20, opened the door. Thornton, who police said does not known Watkins, forced her back into the apartment.

Following the blood trail, police narrowed Thornton's location to four possible apartments. When officers burst in the fourth door, a blur of pink went airborne over the balcony, Castor said.

It was Thornton, police said, wearing a pink dress, pink shoes and a woman's wig belonging to Watkins.

Thornton bolted north across the parking lot, which was teeming with officers. He scaled a fence and dashed across railroad tracks toward a wooded area, where he was caught by a police dog and officers.

Thornton was charged with aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, home invasion robbery and false imprisonment. Police had been looking for him because he was wanted on charges of armed burglary, battery and aggravated assault. Police say they found a gun in his car, so more charges may be forthcoming.

Police capture man dressed as woman after wild chase 03/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 11:47pm]

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