Police: Florida man steals excavator, crashes it into Walmart

A man stole an excavator and crashed it into a Walmart at Butler Plaza in Gainesville, Florida. (WCJB)
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 1:44 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB/Gray News) - A man’s joy ride on a stolen excavator in Florida caused millions of dollars worth of damage, officials said.

According to the arrest report, Jesse Smith, 47, of Trenton, entered a yellow Komatsu excavator, valued at $350,000, without permission at a worksite. He hotwired the machine and drove it away.

Police said he drove into multiple buildings at Storage Depot of Gainesville and used the boom arm to inflict additional damage on the roof. In total, four buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Smith then is accused of driving the excavator through fences, over a utility pole and into the parking lot of the Walmart at Butler Plaza. He knocked down a loading dock wall and drove into the south side of the building, according to the report.

Police said Smith jumped out of the excavator and entered the store armed with a machete but dropped the blade before being confronted by law enforcement officers.

Impacted businesses told officers the estimated property damage is about $2 million. Smith is charged with grand theft, property damage, resisting an officer and trespassing. There were no reports of related injuries.