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Mental hospital escapees plan to blend in flops as police track him

by: Submitted photo, Gino Anthony Puglisi, left, thought he could hide in a group of men outside a Progress shop last week, but Beaverton Police Sgt. Paul Wandell, right, tracked him down. The 38-year-old man had escaped from the state mental hospital and led police on a high-speed chase.

Gino Anthony Puglisi tried to blend in with a group of guys outside a Progress business after a high-speed chase last week, but it didn't work.

Beaverton Police Sgt. Paul Wandell thwarted his plan and ordered Puglisi to the ground.

It was the end of the line for Puglisi, who escaped Feb. 14 from the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.

Puglisi was taken to Washington County Jail after he reportedly stole a $149 battery booster Feb. 22 from the Beaverton Napa Auto Parts store and ran from two Beaverton police sergeants.

The 38-year-old mental patient was charged with second-degree theft, two counts of eluding arrest, reckless driving and second-degree possession of morphine and methamphetamine.

Just before 5 p.m. Feb. 22, dispatch broadcast a report of a 'theft occurring now' at the Napa Auto Parts, 12050 S.W. Canyon Road.

The suspect had reportedly jumped into a maroon Dodge Caravan and sped away from the store toward Highway 217.

Sgt. Tim Lowman was traveling along Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway on his way home for the day when he spotted the suspect's vehicle.

'I was sitting at the intersection for a red light when he crossed right in front of me,' Lowman said.

Lowman immediately pulled behind the van as it headed southbound on Highway 217 and attempted to initiate a traffic stop.

Puglisi ignored the lights and sirens of Lowman's squad car.

'He took off at a high rate of speed driving in the emergency lane, kicking up debris and weaving back and forth through traffic,' Lowman said. 'I followed him for a while and then backed off to give him space with the hopes that he would slow down and not jeopardize the safety of citizens.'

Jumping a barrier

Meanwhile across town, Wandell was heading south along Cascade Avenue on his way home listening to the pursuit's progress and Lowman's report of the suspect's location.

'I watched as he drove by on 217 doing about 70 miles per hour,' said Wandell, who is the police department spokesman.

Lowman told dispatchers that the suspect had taken the Scholls Ferry Road exit, and Wandell sped up to intercept the van.

'He got stuck in traffic at the light and jumped out of the van,' Wandell said. 'I saw him jump one of the concrete barriers and run down the grassy slope across Cascade.'

Wandell jumped out of his unmarked car and chased the man through a nearby parking lot.

Puglisi tossed off his jacket and attempted to blend in with a group standing in front of the Guitar Center when Wandell caught up with him and ordered him to the ground.

The man complied and was taken into custody by Officer Brian Gaunt, who responded to the scene.

'When we asked why he ran, the suspect said he had escaped from the Oregon State Hospital,' Wandell said.

Police later learned that Oregon State Police detectives had been looking for Puglisi since about 8:25 p.m. Feb. 14 when he scaled a fence on the Salem campus between a gymnasium and outdoor exercise area and fled.

During the escape, Puglisi apparently lost a shoe.

'There was nothing to indicate that he was dangerous,' said Lt. Gregg Hastings, Oregon State Police spokesman. 'But it was important that we located him.'

Puglisi was admitted to the state hospital on July 1, 2004, after he was convicted in Columbia County for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, attempting to elude a police officer and reckless driving.

'He was being treated at the hospital on court orders,' Hastings said.