A wanted fugitive from Pennsylvania was arrested at Jacksonville’s newly opened beach on Sunday on an active murder warrant. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, police say Mario Matthew Gatti, 30, broke into the home of Michael Coover Jr., 33, in Arnold, Pennsylvania, on January 16 and shot Coover multiple times.
Investigators quickly identified Gatti as a suspect and issued a warrant for his arrest, charging him with “homicide, burglary, illegal possession of a firearm and multiple counts of both recklessly endangering another person and terroristic threats,” according to the Post-Gazette. Arnold Police issued a warrant for his arrest along with a BOLO request.
Gatti Had Been Wanted in Pennsylvania for 3 Months by the Time He Was Spotted by Florida Beach Police
That BOLO, or “Be On The Lookout,” along with the active warrant made its way to Jacksonville, Florida, where, according to Gatti’s arrest report, a police deputy who was combing the beach to make sure people were following social distancing measures spotted the suspect.
“Based on the close resemblance and the seriousness of the offense the defendant was detained in handcuffs,” the officer wrote in the arrest report. According to police, Gatti tried to pass off fake identification, but he let them search his bag. In the bag they found prescription drugs that Gatti did not have proof a prescription for, and that was enough to take him in to confirm his identity.
Once back at the Jacksonville Beach Police Station, the officer made contact with the Arnold Police in Pennsylvania, who identified him based on his tattoos, his photo and the two cell phones in Gatti’s possession, which were the same numbers Arnold Police had on file for the suspected killer, according to the arrest affidavit.
Gatti was charged in Florida for the fugitive warrant, giving false information to a law enforcement officer and possession of prescription drugs with no prescription.
The Jacksonville Beach Police tweeted, “This morning while officers patrolled the beach proper they captured a Fugitive from Justice, wanted in Arnold, Pennsylvania for Homicide. Good job!”
Video and Photos of the Crowd on Jacksonville Beach Where Gatti Was Located Drew Criticism Amid Coronavirus Concerns
Mayors of Jacksonville, Neptune and Atlantic beaches all announced last week that they would open the beaches for exercise and activity for limited hours each morning and evening. According to First Coast News, the directives are to keep moving and be mindful of social distancing rules. No coolers, chairs, blankets, towels, sunbathing or grills are allowed. Swimming and surfing are allowed but people must do those things at their own risk. Lifeguards are not guaranteed, as there are not as many as in typical years.
Still, on Saturday morning when the beach was open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., photos showed hundreds of beachgoers walking the beach, sparking social media criticism for not only the mayors who opened the beaches but also for Floridians who went to them. The hashtag #FloridaMorons was trending on Twitter, according to CBS News. On Sunday when Gatti was arrested, photos show that crowds were there again, yet police were able to spot the wanted man.
On April 18, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry defended his decision to open the beach in a tweet:
He said in part, “Shutting down cities indefinitely is not an option. … I’m gonna lead a step by step way forward.”