Man eludes police by scaling high-rise Suspect is charged in shootings, robberies

November 07, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A man wanted in seven shootings and armed robberies eluded efforts to arrest him yesterday after he scaled the outside of a public-housing high-rise and disappeared on the seventh floor, police said.

More than 50 heavily armed city police officers and FBI agents searched the 14-story Murphy Homes building for five hours before quitting about 3 p.m.

Police believe the man managed to leave the Argyle Avenue high-rise.

As they searched, police closed Martin Luther King Boulevard and U.S. 40, both major roads into and out of the city, causing tie-ups that lasted several hours.

Officials said they were concerned the search might end in gunfire.

"The suspect is armed and extremely dangerous and is acting in a reckless and violent manner," said Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a city police spokesman. "We didn't want any innocent people to be injured or killed."

Police identified the suspect as Solothal Thomas, 21, of the 900 block of Argyle Ave. He has been charged in warrants with seven armed robberies and shootings around the Murphy Homes complex.

Weinhold said members of the FBI Fugitive Violent Crimes Task Force went to the high-rise to arrest Thomas about 10 a.m.

As police surrounded the building, the suspect emerged from a side entrance and pulled himself to a first-floor balcony.

Police said the man climbed from balcony to balcony, trying to kick in doors along the way, until he reached the seventh floor and found a vacant apartment and got inside.

As he climbed, Weinhold said, officers ran up an interior stairwell but could not head him off.

They did not shoot because the suspect did not pose an imminent threat, Weinhold said.

After losing him in the building, which has about 300 residents, tactical officers began a methodical search starting with the roof and working their way to the basement.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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