He “went up through the ceiling and into the attic,” the police said in a statement. Then, they said, he came down and escaped through another part of the building before officers could surround it.
The fugitive, who was being sought Saturday night, was identified as Alton Thodos, 32. Police said warrants had been issued for him on charges of grand larceny, credit card theft, credit card fraud and a probation violation.
It was unclear Saturday night what technique was used by the man to go through the ceiling. Police described the matter as a barricade situation; such events occur frequently in the Washington region, but escapes through ceilings appear rare.
In their account, police said that when officers went to the motel room, the man inside apparently threatened to harm himself if they entered.
A woman was in the room with him at the time, police said. However, they said, she emerged, which provided an opportunity for police to go in.
But then, the man went through the ceiling.
For a time, police said, it appeared that he was still in the building. Officers from the special-operations division tried to use tear gas to get him to come out, police said.
But shortly afterward, police said, investigators obtained surveillance footage showing that the man had left the building.
It was not clear how the tear gas might have affected motel operations.
The site is in the Huntington area of the county, less than a mile south of Alexandria.
Police described the man as 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, with a beard.