A lengthy police chase in Florida turned into more of a crawl Thursday after a suspected shoplifter climbed into the ceiling of a Big Lots, eluding authorities for more than six hours.
Kristina Perkins, 37, is now facing multiple criminal charges after the botched getaway landed her in handcuffs and left the store’s ceiling severely damaged.
The incident began Thursday evening at a Big Lots in Port Charlottte after the store’s manager noticed a woman entering the women’s restrooms with a shopping cart full of merchandise, according to a statement from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
The manager attempted to check on the woman—who was later identified as Perkins—but discovered that several garbage cans had been barricaded against the door. The manager told Perkins that police were on the way; however, when authorities arrived at approximately 7:30 p.m. the manager entered the bathroom and discovered it was empty.
Several ceiling tiles, however, were missing, beginning a slow-speed pursuit by deputies.
“Deputies were able to make visual contact with Perkins several times by removing tiles from various points in the ceiling, however Perkins disregarded their commands to give up and would move to other locations in the ceiling,” the sheriff’s office said.
Charlotte County Fire & EMS were called in to assist in the chase, using ladders and a thermal imaging system to try to track Perkins movements.
The store was forced to evacuate after concern that Perkins might fall through the ceiling.
As authorities performed a “systematic search of the ceiling,” one deputy discovered Perkins’ bag, which contained three syringes and a spoon with white residue that allegedly tested positive for morphine.
The search for Perkins was suspended at 12:20 a.m., but a deputy was left behind in the store to see whether Perkins would come down from ceiling. Around 1:40 a.m., Perkins was seen “exiting the ceiling and climbing down a stack of shelves” and was arrested.
She allegedly told deputies, “I ran because I was scared!” local station WBBH reports.
Perkins has been charged with felony criminal mischief, petit theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting a merchant and resisting law enforcement without violence, the sheriff’s office said.
The store reported “significant damage” to the store’s ceiling, duct work and drywall. They closed while making repairs, but have since re-opened.
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