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An escaped inmate sprinted through a Clearwater mall, and the whole thing was captured on surveillance video.
The dash through Westfield Countryside mall was over in seconds. From one end to the other, Raul Diaz eluded capture once again. Shoppers at that time had no idea that the man they saw running had been on the run since yesterday.
Diaz, 27, got away from the Transition House of Tarpon Springs Monday afternoon, police said. He was serving time for burglary and grand theft charges when he walked out.
In mall surveillance video from late Tuesday morning, Diaz races past cars, veers right at the Teavana, darts through the women's clothing section, and makes a beeline for the Macy's exit.
"He didn't look like a specific burglar, like a criminal, he looked like a regular guy just running out of the mall," said Sarah Mancari watching the video.
Ironically, another inmate leaving a supervised job interview at the mall was the one who recognized Diaz riding a bike.
"That's when they called out to him by name and he realized that and kind of panicked, dropped the bike and took off on foot," said Rob Shaw, with Clearwater Police. "He had entered the mall on the second floor on the north side and then ran through the mall and exited on the Macy's southeast side. He was only in the mall for a little over a minute."
Police said the search for Diaz continues Tuesday night.
"He's on the lam, on the run, however you want to put it, he's not exactly looking to be found or turned in," Shaw said.
While the mall was on lockdown, officers were hot on Diaz's trail, searching nearby neighborhoods like Winding Wood.
"I called a few people just to let them know what had happened," Barbara Mannix said. "Just to know someone is on the loose is pretty scary."
If Diaz is looking for a hiding place, neighbors in tight-knit Winding Wood don't suggest their community.
"Very observant," Mannix said, speaking about her neighbors. "Believe me. I'm sure they were all on the lookout."
Police are asking neighbors living around the mall to be on alert and keep their eyes open for anything out of the ordinary.
If there's any good news, police said Diaz doesn't have a violent background. But if you see him, do not approach him, just call 911.
Anyone with information is asked to call law enforcement or the DOC at (850) 922-6867.
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