HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The man who led Hancock County deputies on a manhunt Friday has been captured. According to Hancock County Lead Investigator Glenn Grannan, the man is an escapee from Rankin County.
The suspect told deputies he got a ride from someone to a hotel on Highway 603 right by Interstate 10. Deputies got a tip that he was there and searched the property. They found him hiding by the gate where the dumpster is around 9:15pm.
He told deputies the gun he had was just a toy and he left it in the woods.
The search for the man began shortly before 11am when witnesses said he stole a truck from the Stennis Space Center parking lot. Hancock County authorities said employees saw the man take off in their friend's truck. The employees followed him down Texas Flat Road until he turned off the road and crashed through several gates and went into the woods.
Deputies said the truck became stuck, and that's when he got out and ran.
Deputies armed with guns and K9 units spent the day searching the woods on Texas Flat Road.
Meanwhile, Hancock High and Hancock Middle schools were placed on lockdown as a precaution. Parents received a call from the school saying, "The Sheriff's Department has notified school officials that an armed suspect is on foot in the vicinity of Stennis International Airport and McLeod Park. Safety measures are currently in place to protect the students and staff."
The message asked parents not to show up at the schools, but those words did little to calm many's fears.
"We were doing some grocery shopping and I got a call saying the school is on lockdown. I dropped everything and came running on up here. I just want to make sure my boy is okay," parent Ernest Stoltz said. "I'll put myself in harm's way before I'd put him in harm's way. He's the only thing I've got left. It's just me and him."
Stoltz's 12-year-old son is in the sixth grade at Hancock Middle school.
"It's getting ridiculous how these schools lockdown left and right. Now I'm scared to send my kid to school anymore. I just make sure every day, before he goes to school, I tell him goodbye," Stoltz said.
Parent Monica Remberan rushed to Hancock High to check her son out of school, only to find what appeared to be a closed school. There was no movement or activity anywhere. But she said under the circumstances, she was pleased school leaders shut the campus down.
"For the kids' safety, yes," said Remberan.
School leaders lifted the lockdown at 3pm and cautiously allowed students to board buses and cars to leave the campuses.