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Police chase ends in driver's death

Two others are hurt when an SUV deputies were pursuing crashes in southern Hillsborough.

By BRADY DENNIS
Published June 7, 2003

WIMAUMA - He died young and clutching a pistol, the hammer cocked and ready to fire.

He died in a crumpled GMC along a stretch of country road just past Grandma's Fried Chicken and Sandwiches and just before the weathered water tower that watches over this sleepy corner of south Hillsborough County.

That's the scene described by sheriff's deputies investigating a crash that killed the driver and sent the two others, a man and woman, to the hospital. Their names had not been released late Friday, pending notification of kin.

Hillsborough sheriff's deputies said the wreck was the culmination of a chase that started Friday afternoon after reports of someone in a purple GMC Jimmy shooting into nearby homes. The trio were fleeing authorities along State Road 674 when they clipped a telephone pole and rolled again and again.

Lt. Willie Parker said deputies received an anonymous call shortly after 4 p.m. reporting two drive-by shootings on Maple Mex Street, near the Manatee County line. No one in the homes was injured.

A deputy on her way to investigate saw a GMC like the one described in the shootings. She wheeled around and started a chase that lasted several miles.

Parker said the teenagers turned from U.S. 301 onto SR 674 well ahead of the deputy, who was traveling at 65-70 mph. Seconds later, the driver lost control, clipped the pole and flipped, coming to rest on the south side of the road.

The force of the crash ejected the male passenger. He was flown to Tampa General Hospital, Parker said.

The female passenger was taken there by ambulance.

Parker said deputies found two pistols in the vehicle, one of them in the driver's hand.

Investigators blocked off SR 674 with crime scene tape for several hours. A growing crowd gathered along nearby 12th Street to glimpse the crash. Many shook their heads and whispered to one another.

Members of the sheriff's Gang Task Force paced around the scene, their cruiser parked in front of one of the houses that had been a target in the shootings.

With her niece translating, resident Margarita Martinez said she was sitting in her house Friday afternoon when shots rang out and a bullet pierced her roof. This is the second shooting she recalled in the neighborhood. She's also heard talk about gangs in the area.

Deputies were continuing their investigation into the shootings and the wreck late Friday.

[Last modified June 7, 2003, 01:48:25]


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