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Burglary call leads to chase by car and foot; 4 arrested

Police capture the suspects after an officer rams their car "to protect the public" Wednesday in downtown Tampa.

Published March 9, 2006

TAMPA - The call came in as a burglary. A neighbor saw four strange men pile out of a house on the 4300 block of S West Shore Boulevard and took note of the maroon Ford Tempo they jumped into.

A Tampa police officer turned on his lights and siren but the driver wouldn't pull over. From West Shore, the Tempo turned east onto Kennedy Boulevard before the driver decided to jump the median and go against traffic on the busy road.

That's when pursuing Officer Jon Passow, a 22-year veteran, "made the decision to protect the public," police spokesman Joe Durkin said. He rammed the right rear quarter of the car and shoved it into a light pole by a Walgreens, aiming to avert a head-on collision.

Out spilled the passengers into a dragnet that closed in on them in sight of a gathering lunch crowd near WestShore Plaza.

Passow caught the Tempo's driver in the bushes near Walgreens.

Another officer grabbed a second suspect who was hiding behind the pharmacy trash bin.

An off-duty Pinellas sheriff's deputy driving by saw the chase unfold. He got out of his car and chased a third suspect, who ran into the Panera Bread, where he tried to blend in with its 150 customers, store manager Andrew Herrera said.

But the suspect ran outside, where he was caught.

A fourth suspect ran catty-corner into the Wyndham Westshore hotel, a shiny, cylindrical tower nearby. The hotel operator got a call from an employee wondering about a strange man in the empty second floor meeting room.

A manager came up to see who he was, general manager Marcia Dmochowski said.

Soon, an off-duty Tampa police officer in the building stormed in and made the arrest, Durkin said. The officer heard about the chase on the radio he carries.

The only injuries in the entire incident, were a few scrapes officers and suspects suffered, Durkin said. A digital camera was found in the rammed car, which sat in a right Kennedy turn lane for hours Wednesday with its rear bumper peeled off while police collected evidence.

The four suspects include a 15-year-old police say was the driver, a 17-year-old, and Lee Andrew Black, 18, and Emmanuel Mario Williams, 22. They all face charges of burglary, grand theft and resisting arrest. The driver also faces the charge of aggravated fleeing and eluding a police officer.

[Last modified March 9, 2006, 02:45:12]

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