Suspect ‘hotwires’ excavator, runs with machete and causes millions in damages in Gainesville: police

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A suspect is in custody after the Gainesville Police Department said he stole an excavator and used it to tear through several businesses resulting in millions of dollars in damages.

Gainesville Police identified the suspect as Jesse Smith, 47, from Trenton.

Officials said the joy ride started at around 8 p.m. on Monday, about five minutes southwest of the University of Florida’s campus.

According to the arrest report, the suspect first stole a $350,000 excavator from a construction site and “hotwired” the piece of heavy construction equipment to successfully drive away. He then proceeded to crash into a self-storage facility, leaving significant damage to the property.

Smith continued driving the excavator and caused damage at a gym called Swamp City Fitness.

The ride didn’t end there.

Officials say Smith ended up driving toward the Walmart automobile section where he crashed through the wall. Then, he ran out with a machete, police said.

The suspect resisted his arrest, but police said they were able to take him down and put him in custody.

The estimated property damage is approximately $2 million.

Smith is now facing seven charges including criminal mischief, armed trespassing and grand theft.

No injuries were reported.

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