81-year-old jumps fence, escapes assisted living facility

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Surveillance cameras caught a glimpse of one man's surprising getaway from an assisted living facility in Lakeland.

Lakeland police officials tell FOX 13 the 81-year-old man was able to scale a fence, then disappear into the night earlier this week.

If you look closely at the video, you'll see John Thomas in the shadows scaling up the wooden fence at the Lakeland Manor Assisted Living Facility.

Then you'll see him come crashing down hard on the other side; a dangerous decision for an 81-year-old man.

"It is amazing at 81 years of age he was able to scale a fence walk off and has made it back to Tampa," said Lakeland police public information officer Robin Tillett. "We're asking for the public's help we're trying to locate Mr. Thomas."

Police are taking Thomas' escape seriously. They say it was a veterans group who helped the military vet get into the facility after his release from the jail in Hillsborough County earlier this month.

But officials believe he had no intention of an extended stay.

"Through interviews, we know that he had told other people that he wanted to go back to Tampa and apparently that is what he has done," she said.

According to the police report, the night Thomas broke out, he cut the wires to the security door so the alarm wouldn't go off.

Once outside, it was just a matter of getting up an over the fence before running to freedom.

Now investigators think he's likely in the Tampa area. They got a report someone saw him only a few days ago.

Officials say Thomas does have several medical issues including dementia, which is why they want to make sure he's not in need of help.

"He's a veteran. He served our country well and right now our priority is just making sure he's safe and sound," said Tillett.

Officials with the assisted living facility declined to comment on Thomas' escape. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact Lakeland police.