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    25-mile pursuit ends in convenience store

    A deputy wrestles the suspect to the ground. The man is accused of driving up to 100 mph while fleeing from officers.

    By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 14, 2002

    ZEPHYRHILLS -- A 43-year-old man pointed a gun out his window and drove as fast as 100 mph early Friday while leading Hillsborough sheriff's deputies on a 25-mile chase, officials said.

    The pursuit ended shortly before 4 a.m. when Delio Petromelli ran into a Zephyrhills convenience store and a deputy wrestled him to the ground, Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Lt. Rod Reder said. The deputy thought Petromelli might take hostages inside the store, Reder said.

    According to police, Petromelli had pointed a gun at four people, forcing them to the store's floor.

    No one was injured. Investigators later discovered Petromelli's gun was a BB gun that looked like a semiautomatic pistol, Reder said.

    Petromelli, of Spring Hill, faces four counts each of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, false imprisonment and aggravated assault, Zephyrhills police and Hillsborough deputies said. He also faces a charge of felony fleeing to elude, aggravated assault with a firearm and reckless driving, they said.

    Petromelli will be investigated in connection with the robberies of at least three Tampa Bay area convenience stores, Reder said.

    Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Preston Barfield first saw Petromelli speeding east on Busch Boulevard with his headlights off, Reder said.

    When the deputy tried to stop Petromelli, he sped away, deputies said. The chase continued north on U.S. 301 as Petromelli forced cars off the road while heading into Pasco County, deputies said.

    Deputy Barfield tried to cut off Petromelli as he pulled into a Radiant Foods at 6512 Gall Blvd. The deputy's cruiser collided with Petromelli's van, and Petromelli ran inside the store.

    Petromelli was being held Saturday at Pasco County jail in Land O'Lakes in lieu of $330,500 bail.

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