NEWS: Florida man, Jesse Smith, steals excavator, crashes into Walmart
A machete-armed Florida man stole an excavator and went on a joy ride throughout Gainesville Monday night, crashing into several buildings — including a Walmart — and causing roughly $2 million in damage.
Jesse Smith, 47, was arrested early Tuesday morning after he allegedly stole the yellow Komatsu excavator, valued at $350,000, and drove it down several roads, knocking into buildings, fences, and light poles, before finally coming to rest after crashing into the side of the Walmart.
Smith entered the machine, without permission, at a construction site and “‘hotwired” the excavator and drove it away,” an arrest report viewed by the Post stated.
He allegedly broke through a chainlink fence at the work site before he drove into buildings at a nearby storage unit center while extending the excavator’s “boom” to “inflict additional damage.”
Four buildings belonging to the storage company were damaged or destroyed during Smith’s escapade before he made his way to a nearby Walmart.
En route to the retail store, Smith smashed into another fence and drove into a utility pole causing it to fall down with live wires before running over to a CT meter, causing underground damage and breaking down a light pole.
When he arrived at the Walmart, Smith smashed the 72,000-pound machine against a loading dock wall and crashed into the side of the store causing “extensive exterior damage.”
Smith then allegedly fled the excavator and ran inside armed with a machete, but discarded it.
Police said Smith “physically resisted officers and initially refused to put his hands behind his back.”
The businesses listed as victims of Smith’s crimes told law enforcement the estimated property damages would be approximately $2 million.
Smith was charged with six felonies and one misdemeanor with the most serious being first-degree larceny-grand theft causing damage to property estimated over $1,000.
He also faces four Criminal Mischief-Damage to Property charges, all third-degree felonies, a felony armed trespassing charge, and a misdemeanor for resisting an officer without violence.
The novice excavator operator has previously had several court appearances for another grand theft in the third degree, according to Alachua County Court records.
Smith is being held in Alachua County as he awaits his trial after making his initial appearance in court on Tuesday.