GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - We're learning more about the man police say hid out overnight inside the Academy Sports at Crossroads Mall before committing a string of crimes Thursday morning. It turns out, one of his victims who was held at gunpoint gave the suspect an escape plan, then told police exactly how they could find him.
It started around 5am Thursday when an alarm was tripped at Academy Sports. When officers arrived, they realized it wasn't someone trying to break in, but rather someone trying to break out of the store. They said a man had gone into the business the day before and hid until after closing time. They said the man managed to evade the cleaning crew and stole several items from the store, including clothing, firearms and ammunition.
"The cleaning crew heard the alarm go off inside the store and at that time alerted police," Gulfport Police Sgt. Damon McDaniel said. "Upon re-entering the store to confirm it was just the alarm, the cleaning crew noticed several things moved around and the cabinets within the weapons area had been tampered and entered."
While officers were at the store, another call came in reporting a home invasion in an RV at Campgrounds of the South on Three Rivers Road. Police believe the same man who had been hiding out in the sports store later forced his way into the RV and demanded food while pointing a rifle at his victims.
The camp host wanted to remain anonymous, but told WLOX News he was out walking when he heard a lady scream. The woman said a man came into her family's camper and pointed a gun at her. She pushed the gun away and ran out with her daughter. But her husband and son were still inside. The gunman told the man, "I'm sorry. I didn't know you had kids in here." Then he left.
According to investigators, his next stop was Channel Chemical on Seaway Road. Plant Manager Tim Reid said he and the office manager were inside the business talking when he heard a knock at the door.
"When I came out here to the corner of the building, the gentlemen had a shotgun pointed at me and basically told me to get back into the building," Reid said.
Not knowing anything was wrong, the office manager let Reid inside and the man followed.
"He held the shotgun to Kathleen and myself and said he was hungry and hadn't slept," Reid said. "He was completely stressed out and didn't have any money; he didn't know what he was going to do."
He kept showing that the gun was loaded and said he had another gun. The gunman knew Reid would just call police as soon as he left.
"He said he didn't want to kill us, but he didn't know what he was going to do," Reid said.
So Reid gave him another option: Lock us up.
"He took us out the back and had me basically duct tape Kathleen to a chair, and then he duct taped me to the chair and he padlocked us in there," Reid said.
He took Reid's wallet and keys, and made his getaway. Once they heard the truck drive off, the pair wiggled out of the tape and escaped through another door to call 911.
"God was looking out for us," Reid said. "It could have very easily turned into a bad situation for both of us. And now, knowing the history of him, I think that much more. I feel very blessed to get out alive and uninjured."
There was one thing Reid didn't mention to the gunman: His truck had OnStar. Using the tracking technology and a description of the truck, police were able to find their suspect traveling north on Highway 49. He was stopped and arrested without incident in the parking lot of Robinwood One Stop in Saucier.
Michael David Hamilton, 34, of Yellville, Arkansas is charged with commercial burglary, burglary, home invasion, two counts of kidnapping, armed robbery, possession of stolen property and auto theft. He was also found to be wanted by the Baxter County Sheriff's Department for motor vehicle theft.
Hamilton is being held in lieu of a $700,000 bond for seven different charges. He also faces charges in Arkansas. In Baxter County, authorities believe Hamilton beat two women and two men with a metal pipe early Sunday morning. Sheriff's deputies said Hamilton then stole a vehicle and fled.
Investigators found drugs inside the home where the aggravated assault allegedly took place and deputies say more charges could be coming against Hamilton.