PLANT CITY — As deputies searched a house for stolen property a few miles away, Charles McDaniel decided to run for it.
But he fled on what didn't turn out to be the fastest means of escape — a riding lawn mower.
Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies arrested McDaniel, 25, near his home on Trapnell Road on Wednesday afternoon as he tried to get away on the machine.
Before his arrest, McDaniel tossed a stolen .38-caliber pistol into a ditch along the side of the road, deputies said.
He was charged with grand theft firearm, felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a concealed firearm.
Deputies learned of McDaniel while searching the Dover home of Michael Ray Riddles. There, they found a stolen black and yellow Suzuki all-terrain vehicle with the vehicle ID number removed in a shed behind the house, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.
The investigation began when Riddles, 48, tried to sell stolen property, authorities said.
He was charged with grand theft auto, two counts of grand theft, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a vehicle with an altered or removed vehicle identification number and criminal mischief.
At the same time as his arrest, deputies learned that a second suspect, McDaniel, was riding down Trapnell Road on a lawn mower.
Debbie Carter, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said she didn't know of another instance in which a suspect used a similar method of escape.
"You have them diving into water, you have them running into bushes," Carter said. "But the lawn mower? That's pretty unique. You can't make this stuff up."
Both Riddles and McDaniel have a history of run-ins with the law. Riddles has been charged with burglary, vehicle theft and grand theft motor vehicle. McDaniel has faced charges of burglary, drug possession, trespassing and dealing in stolen property.
Approached by a reporter at their Plant City home, McDaniel's mother and sister declined to comment.
Lena Keswani, 40, who owns a grocery store on Trapnell Road, said McDaniel and his friends are known in the neighborhood.
"He has always been a problem," Keswani said, rolling her eyes when she heard about McDaniel's arrest. "I don't know how he turned out like that."
Then she added: "They caught him, right? I don't think he would have outrun them on a lawn mower."
Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report. Nandini Jayakrishna can be reached at (813) 661-2441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.