[Hpn] Homeless man takes credit as hero

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 02 Nov 2001 11:32:36 -0800


Homeless man takes credit as hero
A homeless man from Lutz says he abandoned his fast-food breakfast to pursue
and capture a youth who escaped from a detention camp.


 St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2001
A homeless man from Lutz says he abandoned his fast-food breakfast to pursue
and capture a youth who escaped from a detention camp.

LAND O'LAKES -- Todd Rudisill, homeless and hung over, sat in McDonald's on
Thursday morning drinking coffee and eating an Egg McMuffin.

Outside, Pasco County sheriff's deputies swarmed the area looking for a
17-year-old boy who had escaped just after 9 a.m. from Gulf and Lake Academy
at 21808 State Road 54 in Land O'Lakes.

A sheriff's helicopter circled above. A police dog roamed the scene.

Still no sight of the boy.

Rudisill said he overheard a description of the escapee and made a decision.

"I thought, "Hey man . . . I don't have anything to do, I'll go get him,' "
he said. 

"I went out there like a hound dog. I tracked him down like you track down a
deer. I can't explain it; I just used my animal instincts."

Just after 12:30 p.m., Rudisill said he dragged the boy out of the woods to
a Tires Plus store on U.S. 41 near SR 54 and turned him over to deputies.

But just how did he do it?

Rudisill said he "thought about where I would run, where I would go." He
hopped on his bicycle and took off toward the woods. He told a Times
reporter that he found the teen trying to cross a swamp near the tire store.

He said he lured the boy over by offering him cigarettes, then just talked
to him awhile like a friend. When he was sure he had his man, Rudisill put
the teen "in a choke hold and dragged his a-- to the tire store."

Rudisill, who said he lives in a tent in Lutz, said Thursday was supposed to
be his first day of work laying pipe for a local company. But he called in
sick because he was out late at a Halloween party Wednesday night, he said.

Rudisill was willing to talk about his feat to anyone who would listen.

"They are flying around in helicopters and in cars and everything, and here
I am on a bike and on foot," he said. "They had already been at this for
almost four hours, looking for one punk. I went on my bike unarmed and drug
him out of a swamp.

"I just saved the county thousands of dollars."

Sheriff's officials couldn't confirm the details of Rudisill's story, but
incident reports state that a man eating at a fast food restaurant found the
teen near the swamp and captured him.

"He very well could be correct," said sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers.

State records show that Rudisill has used force before, sometimes illegally.
He has been arrested five times since 1993. Among the charges: aggravated
assault with a shotgun, domestic violence battery and aggravated battery.

On Thursday, he was glad to be on the other side of the law.

"It's my American duty," Rudisill said. "If every American responded to
crime this way, there would be no crime."

The teen, whose name the Times is withholding because of his age, was placed
under arrest and taken Thursday evening to the Pasco County juvenile
detention center. 

Officials at Gulf and Lake Academy, formerly known as Sunshine Youth
Services, said the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice would investigate.
The academy is a secure facility that houses 13- to 18-year-old misdemeanor
offenders with mental disabilities. Officials at the department in
Tallahassee on Thursday said they were waiting for a report on the incident
before investigating.

 Copyright 2001 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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