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Pensacola sex offender climbs 365-foot radio tower to flee from police

The hours-long standoff interrupted service to several area radio stations.
This YouTube screen shot shows local news coverage in Pensacola as a man fleeing from police climbed a 365-foot tall radio tower on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. [Youtube]

A man wanted for failing to register as a sex offender in Pensacola climbed a 365-foot-tall radio tower near Palafox and Jordan streets while fleeing from police, sparking an hours-long standoff and interrupting broadcasts to several area radio stations Monday, according to the Pensacola police department.

The man was taken into custody under Florida’s Baker Act after being on the tower for seven hours. Police aren’t releasing his name until he gets out of the hospital and is charged.

According to police spokesman Mike Wood, the man had been staying at a homeless camp near the tower. Around 3:45 p.m. Monday, officers were conducting routine patrols of the camp and recognized the man as being wanted for failing to register as a sex offender. Wood said the man took off when officers tried to arrest him, running about 100 feet to the tower where he started to climb.

Wood said the man threatened to jump as he climbed to about 300 feet during the confrontation. Occasionally, he would break for about 20 minutes before climbing up or down some more.

“He would take breaks and find a place to sit on the tower, then rest for about 20 or 30 minutes and go a little higher or climb down some,” Wood said. “He just kept going up and down the whole time.”

The tower the man climbed contains live wires and sends signals to local radio stations. Wood said the tower was shut down as soon as the man started climbing, affecting broadcasts for Cat Country 98.7, News Radio 92.3 and ESPN Pensacola.

Negotiators worked with mental health specialists from Pensacola’s Lakeview Center to talk with the man and rescue crews were on hand if he decided to come down and needed help. Wood said first responders were particularly concerned during the final few hours, when heavy fog rolled in, blocking the man from view and making the tower slippery with moisture.

Around 10:45 p.m., the man decided to climb down and was taken into custody and transported to a local hospital.

Wood said the man has been to prison at least twice, once for sexual battery and once for failing to register as a sex offender, which he served eight years for, according to Wood.