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50-car chase ends as robber kills self

After robbing a Brink's truck, he led police across two counties.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published June 13, 2007


Hillsborough and Pasco deputies and investigators swarm the convenience store on the corner of Colony Road and State Road 52 in Hudson after the driver of the vehicle shown apparently committed suicide following a high-speed chase originating with a Brink's truck robbery in Hillsborough County.
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[Times photo: Stephen J. Coddington]
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[Times photo: Stephen J. Coddington]
Richard Price of Hudson was an eye witness at the convenience store where the man being chased by deputies pulled over and shot himself.

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He roared up the highway in a midnight-blue Hyundai, hauling a gun and a bag of cash. Nearly 50 police cars followed.

They cornered him at a gas station in the stifling heat of midafternoon. But he would not surrender.

He would not submit to handcuffs, would not be led to jail.

A popping sound came from the Hyundai.

It was over.

And no deputy had to fire a shot.

It began around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday outside a Wal-Mart near Tampa, at the corner of Waters Avenue and Hanley Road, when an employee of the Brink's company came out with a load of money and opened the doors of an armored truck.

The man in the Hyundai, a Santa Fe sport utility vehicle, approached with a gun, Hillsborough sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. He demanded the money, got it and fled south on the Veterans Expressway.

He might have escaped if not for a citizen who saw the robbery and called the authorities and followed him down the highway.

The citizen, whose name was not released Tuesday, stayed behind the robber, updating dispatch on his location, until police joined the chase.

The robber led them on Hillsborough Avenue, Memorial Highway and Eisenhower Boulevard, eventually turning north on the Veterans. From there he followed the Suncoast Parkway through Pasco County.

He fired a shot toward the police near State Road 54. No one was hit.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office alone had 30 vehicles in the chase, including a helicopter, Carter said. The Florida Highway Patrol, the Tampa Police Department and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office also pursued.

The robber turned off the Suncoast at State Road 52 and drove west. For some reason -- authorities said they didn't know why -- he stopped at the Liberty gas station in Hudson and pulled under the canopy by the pumps.

Richard Price, 49, was resting in the shade by a chain-link fence when the chase ended. He saw the Hyundai stop, the deputies surround it.

He saw the guns drawn and the calls for surrender. He could not see through the windshield for the glare of the sun, but he heard one shot.

Authorities said it was suicide. They did not immediately release the man's name. He was pronounced dead at 1:59 p.m.

He stayed in the driver's seat, draped in a white blanket, for most of the afternoon. Detectives conferred and a technician took pictures as onlookers crowded the crime-scene tape.

The money was nowhere in sight.

At 4:11 p.m., when the medical examiner's van arrived, officials prepared to move the body. They wanted to shield it from public view.

A detective laid a white sheet over the windshield. Deputies formed a wall by the gas pumps as boys on BMX bikes jostled for a better look.

Nine-year-old Jonathan Perez sat on a red Schwinn under an oak tree.

"He shot himself," Jonathan said. "And now he's in hell."

Times staff writer Michael A. Mohammed contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.

[Last modified June 12, 2007, 23:31:06]


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