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Police still searching for suspect who slipped away

Hector Gomez - the Steve McQueen of his own great escape - had city police chasing him for a second day after his daring break from elite homicide detectives.

Hector Gomez - the Steve McQueen of his own great escape - had city police chasing him for a second day after his daring break from elite homicide detectives.

If history is any indication, Gomez, 28, of Kensington, will be caught - he's been arrested at least 15 times, police said. Most recently, officers caught him Sunday after he bailed out of a stolen BMW.

And never have police wanted him more.

Monday, he left homicide detectives chagrined by escaping from an interrogation room at Police Headquarters, quietly slipping through the bolted front door of the unit, and strolling past uniformed officers at the front desk.

"He's a slick guy. He likes to run and hide," police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said after looking over Gomez's criminal history, which includes theft, eluding police, resisting arrest and drug offenses. "He's not too good at getting away."

Yesterday, that remained a point of contention among top-ranking officials as old-fashioned detective work revealed a series of errors.

Here's what police said happened:

Gomez was driving through Kensington on Sunday night when police saw him go through a stop sign. The car, a green BMW, had been reported stolen from that neighborhood six days earlier.

Officers pulled over Gomez close to his home in the 3300 block of Kip Street and ordered him to put the car in park. Instead, he fled down B and Ontario Streets before he abandoned the car near Kip.

He was caught, arrested and locked up. Bail was set at $10,000, and Gomez had to post 10 percent. Since he didn't have $1,000, he negotiated. He told police he had information about a homicide on Ontario and knew where police could find the murder weapon.

About 1:30 p.m. Monday, he was taken to Police Headquarters at Eighth and Race Streets and turned over to homicide detectives. They placed him in an interrogation room in the first-floor unit.

Despite sitting in a chair in which suspects are usually handcuffed and which is bolted to the floor, Gomez was not shackled. Despite a surveillance window, he was not watched.

In fact, no one looked in the room until about 5 p.m. - when Gomez was long gone.

That's when police saw that Gomez had stood on the chair and punched a hole through the drywall ceiling large enough to fit his 5-foot-8, 140-pound body. He wiggled his way to the next room. An incriminating footprint indicated he kicked out a ceiling tile in that room.

But he still found himself behind a bolted door.

That lock requires a combination. Police speculate he hid in the nearby bathroom used by suspects and slipped out behind someone who knew the code. He then went unnoticed out of range of the surveillance camera.

During a search through the building, at least one officer had a gun drawn as he looked for Gomez. Others used flashlights as they peered above ceiling tiles.

An employee from the second-floor radio room reported that Gomez, whose arms are heavily tattooed, casually boarded the elevator that took him to the lobby. Gomez then walked past uniformed officers at the front desk and into the parking lot.

Police were still trying to determine yesterday exactly how much of a head start he had.

Yesterday, police said it appeared Gomez got the best of them, including making up the ruse about a homicide to avoid prison. It was only two months ago that he was released from Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and placed on probation after he was convicted of resisting arrest, fleeing police and auto theft.

Anyone with information of his whereabouts is asked to call police at 215-686-8477 (TIPS).

"Hopefully," Vanore said, "we'll get him soon."