Syringe-wielding Wal-Mart robbery suspect shot after fleeing police

The suspect stole a TV before evading police, crashing into a squad and eventually driving into a ditch

By Jim Schoettler
The Florida Times-Union

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — A city police officer shot a man in the head after he stole a television from the local Wal-Mart Monday morning and led officers on a high-speed pursuit which ended with him crashing his pickup truck in a ditch.

It remains unclear what prompted the officer to shoot the unidentified suspect, who had threatened a Wal-Mart loss-prevention officer with a syringe before fleeing. Police are still trying to determine if the man had any other weapons.

The suspect was apparently shot inside his car, which he was trying to drive out of the ditch on Bonnieview Road after ramming a police car during the pursuit, Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting per city police policy. Hurley said it's the first shooting involving a city police officer in at least nine years.

Hurley did not immediately identify the officer. At least part of the incident was captured on a police car dash camera, which will be reviewed as part of the investigation.

The incident began about 10:45 a.m. when the man was caught trying to leave the 14th Street store with a flat-screen TV. He threatened the loss-prevention officer with the syringe and then continued outside with the TV. It's unclear if the syringe contained anything.

The man put the TV in the vehicle, got in the driver's side with a woman passenger and took off. A description of the vehicle was given to police, who spotted it almost immediately fishtailing in the parking lot.

The vehicle ran over some curbs and sped off, with two patrol cars in pursuit. The man turned west on Bonnieview Road, which is just outside the city, and went through several barricades set up for construction in the area. The chase reached speeds of 80 mph, more than twice the speed limit on the residential street, Hurley said.

The suspect hit the dead end, made a U-turn and rammed one of the pursing police cars. The man continued to drive, but a third police car blocked the road. The man drove into the ditch after trying to make another U-turn.

One of the officers then shot the man as he tried to drive out of the ditch. Police did not immediately know the man's name. His passenger, who appeared heavily intoxicated or high, offered police little information, Hurley said.

Copyright 2015 The Florida Times-Union

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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