Fla. man steals two police cruisers during pursuit

After stealing a police vehicle, the man was run off the road by pursuing officers but kept the pursuit alive by stealing a second cruiser that had come to assist

By Frank Fernandez
The Daytona Beach News-Journal

COCOA, Fla. — A man accused of stealing a Cocoa police car on Thursday was forced off Interstate 95 and into some woods in Volusia County, authorities said.

But he got away: by stealing a second Cocoa police vehicle.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and Division Chief Brian Henderson were the first to arrive after the man went off the road in the second stolen police vehicle. Chitwood said that while some will question how the man managed to swipe two police cars, the situation ended well.

"Nobody got hurt. Nobody got killed. Every police officer and deputy went home safe," Chitwood said in a phone interview. "The bad guy went to jail safe. And no innocent person got hurt."

The man behind the wheel of each stolen police vehicle was identified as Xavier Javern Cummings, 33, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

Cummings was charged with armed burglary of a conveyance; escape, fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement; two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; two counts of grand theft firearm; two counts of grand theft motor vehicle; and driving while license suspended (habitual).

The situation began when the man stole the first Cocoa Police Department vehicle in Brevard County, Chitwood said. The sheriff said he believed that happened after a Cocoa officer had responded to a person acting strangely on Interstate 95.

Cummings was heading north on I-95 about 4:15 p.m. Thursday when Volusia County sheriff’s deputies were alerted, said spokesman Andrew Gant in an email.

A pursuing police officer forced the stolen cruiser off the highway around the 252-mile marker where it crashed and became stuck in some woods, according to video from Volusia County Sheriff's Office helicopter.

Law enforcement officers gathered with shields and guns drawn and a police dog at the ready as they approached the stuck, stolen police car with Cummings apparently still inside, according to a video. The officers used a pickup truck to block in the stolen police car.

But as the officers and deputies neared the car, the man ran out of the woods and into a nearby Cocoa police SUV, Chitwood said and a video showed. Officers ran after him with one officer getting as close as standing right at the open driver's door of the police SUV after the suspect hopped inside, according to the video.

But the man got away, driving north in the stolen Cocoa police SUV, its blue lights still flashing.

As the man fled, an officer on the police radio advised "Any other vehicle dealing with him, lock your doors."

Police blocked off the entrances to Interstate 95, shutting the highway down as commuters lined up on ramps blocked from continuing their travels.

As the SUV crossed over Dunlawton Avenue on I-95, officers in Port Orange used stop sticks to puncture at least some of the SUV's tires. The SUV then started trailing smoke.

The Cocoa police SUV continued north of Williamson Avenue overpass as police, deputies and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office helicopter followed.

The SUV then ran off the interstate and into the median around the 258-mile marker, Gant said.

Chitwood said his biggest fear was that the suspect would go into the southbound lanes and he was relieved when the SUV ended up stuck in the median.

Chitwood got out of his car and was the first person to approach the stuck police SUV. Division Chief Henderson was there almost at the same time as Chitwood. More law enforcement officers quickly arrived.

This time the man didn’t get away.

Chitwood said the man had mental health issues and was yelling into the SUV's microphone about the FBI and Homeland Security. The man also had mace he had taken from the first Cocoa police car. The mace, held in a small fire extinguisher-like device, tumbled out of the SUV with the man.

Chitwood said he was proud of how officers and deputies worked together. He also said he was glad no one panicked and opened fire on the suspect inside the stolen police car when it was stuck in the woods and the man appeared to be still trying to back the vehicle out.

(c)2021 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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