FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A manhunt is underway after a murder suspect escaped Friday from the Broward County courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Keyla Concepcion said Dayont'e Resiles, 21, escaped from the courthouse about 9:30 a.m. He was arrested in connection with the 2014 death of Jill Su, who was found dead in a bathtub at her Davie home.
Resiles is charged with first-degree murder. He was in court for a hearing regarding his death penalty status.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said there were two bailiffs in the courtroom when Resiles got free from his shackles and ran out of the room. Israel said one of the bailiffs unsuccessfully tried to grab Resiles, but he got away through the north wing of the building.
Israel chastised Broward County commissioners, saying that the staffing at the courthouse has been insufficient since he first took office.
"The county believes that my job is to save dollars," Israel said. "I believe my job is to save lives."
Israel said an alarm in the courthouse sounded and deputies established a perimeter within minutes, but he believes Resiles defeated the perimeter before deputies could get in place.
The sheriff said he doesn't know how Resiles got out of his shackles.
"He was shackled appropriately," Israel said.
Local 10 News photographer Wade Hughes, who was inside the courthouse at the time, said he saw the commotion taking place and followed the crowd with his camera.
"It's sort of chaos out here in front of the courthouse -- a lot of cops, a lot of guns, a lot of dogs, a lot of people wondering what's going on," Hughes said.
Joshua Rydell, who was in an adjacent courtroom at the time, said his client witnessed Resiles scuffling with a deputy.
"My client was waiting for me outside and saw the individual scuffling with one of the deputies and ultimately knocked the deputy over, strip off his maximum inmate custody jumpsuit, get out of his cuffs and slip away," Rydell said.
The courthouse was evacuated, but everyone was eventually allowed back inside, although the north wing remained closed for much of the day.
Court records indicate that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Resiles. Friday morning's scheduled hearing was for a motion to remove the death penalty status.
Resiles' attorney, Dohn Williams, told Local 10 News that he was on his way to court when he received a text message that his client had escaped.
"This escape comes as a complete shock," Williams said.
Williams said he hadn't spoken with Resiles in quite some time, but he said there was no indication that Resiles would attempt an escape.
"He has always been a perfect gentleman," Williams said.
Williams said they were both optimistic about their request to remove the death penalty status.
"I'd tell him to voluntarily surrender so that we can get on with his case," Williams said when asked if he had a message for his client.
Israel also had a message for Resiles.
"We will leave no stone unturned," he said. "We will do everything we can to bring him back into custody safely, quickly and efficiently."
The sheriff said he has 15 deputies staffed at the courthouse.
"That is full staffing, but that's unacceptable and inappropriate full staffing," Israel said.
Broward County Mayor Marty Kiar said in a statement that the only focus right now should be on finding Resiles.
"Once he has been captured and public safety restored, a full investigation will be done, all of the facts collected and we will determine how and why this occurred and take any corrective action that is necessary," Kiar said.
Israel said he doesn't know if Resiles had an accomplice, but he reminded the public that harboring a fugitive from justice is a felony offense.
He said Resiles was last seen on surveillance video wearing a white T-shirt and black shorts while heading down a stairwell next to the public defender office.
A SWAT unit and multiple police vehicles visited a Fort Lauderdale apartment complex Friday afternoon, but Resiles was not found.
Anyone with information as to Resiles' whereabouts is asked to call 911 or Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS.