By Mark E. Vogler
---- — METHUEN — About to be captured in the middle of an alleged house burglary early yesterday morning, Juan Ocasio made a daring escape attempt by jumping out a third-story window, according to police.
Ocasio didn't get far. He broke a leg in a hard landing on a paved sidewalk, ending a dramatic get-away. Officer Christine Nicolosi and K-9 Reiko tracked him down in the yard of a nearby home, where he was writhing in pain and yelling for help
"He told me he didn't realize he was on the third floor when he jumped," Methuen Police Capt. Randy Haggar said in an interview yesterday. "Things were happening so fast that he forgot where he was, he said to me during booking. It was about a 35-foot jump. People become desperate when they're about to get caught."
Ocasio, 36, 65 Railroad St., Apt. 1, Lawrence, was one of three people arrested by police in connection with a break-in at the 19 Grove Street apartments shortly after midnight. He was charged with breaking and entering in the nighttime, unlawful possession of a firearm, larceny of a firearm and resisting arrest. Ocasio was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, but later returned to a local hospital where he was being guarded by a Methuen officer.
Also charged were:
Nelson Rodriguez, 38, 25 Carlton St., Methuen. He was charged with breaking and entering in the night time, unlawful possession of a firearm, larceny of a firearm, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.
Jorge Ramos 27, of 12 Haverhill St., Lawrence. He was arrested on an unrelated warrant. But police said they expect to charge him as an accomplice in the burglary and possibly for related offenses.
The three men were being held on $50,000 cash bail pending their arraignment in Lawrence District Court tomorrow.
Police credited a concerned neighbor, who called emergency 911 after being spooked by the sight of several masked men breaking into an apartment.
"It's a great example of a neighbor looking out for a neighbor, which is always a good thing," Methuen police Capt. Kris McCarthy said. "Due to the neighbor's diligence and calling us, we were able to respond quickly and apprehend them in the act of committing the crime. We also recovered a couple of loaded semi automatic handguns. We're fortunate nobody was home at the time or this could have been a lot worse. At this point, we're unsure why they chose this apartment."
Police recovered one stolen van on the scene, and recovered another vehicle that they are conducting search on, McCarthy said.
When police arrived at the apartment, they noticed the door frame was damaged. The suspect on the other side of the door tried to jam the door shut, but the officers kicked the door in. Ocasio and Rodriguez fled into a back bedroom. Ocasio opened the window and leaped to avoid capture.
Officer Matt Tarness struggled with Rodriguez, who was trying to flee through the window too.
"Officer Tarness wrestled the individual back inside, along with Officer (John) Cushing. Officer Tarness is very lucky he didn't get pulled out the window head-first by the suspect who was trying to get away," Haggar said.
Police said Ocasio tried to pick himself off the ground and run, but didn't get far with a bone protruding through his leg.
Technicians from the Massachusetts State Police Crime scene unit were called in to process two apartments, one believed to be inhabited by Ramos, whose role in the burglary is still being investigated. State Police also took custody of the two guns.
"We believe they (the burglary suspects) attempted to steal them from the house. We're trying to track down the history of those guns," Haggar said.
Police found one of the guns setting on top of a knapsack, which contained sneakers and electronic equipment.