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100 mph chase ends in wreck and arrest

A Tampa man accused of stealing a purse is pursued by deputies on I-75 until he crashes into a guardrail.

By TAMARA LUSH

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2001


As Darling Manuel "Manny" Contes was being chased by deputies down Interstate 75 Saturday morning, he crashed the Lexus he was driving into a guardrail, according to authorities. The car spun around and stopped.

Still, Pasco deputies said, Contes didn't want to give up. He also didn't want to pour out his beer.

According to a lieutenant's report, Contes -- who was wanted for purse-snatching -- got out of the wrecked car carrying a half-full bottle of Old English.

Beer in hand, he tried to walk away from Lt. Joe Frontz, who squirted pepper spray in Contes' face to stop him.

The arrest ended an hourlong search for Contes, 21, who lives at 14002 Village Terrace Drive in Tampa.

Sheriff's deputies said that at about 8:45 a.m., Contes snatched a purse from a woman who was washing her car at the Tommy Boy carwash on Leonard Road in Lutz.

The woman tried to wrestle her purse from Contes, who responded by striking the woman several times on the head with his fists, a report said.

Contes also threw the woman onto the ground and kicked her, she told deputies. Contes got into the Lexus, where two of his friends were waiting. The woman got up and tried to stand in front of the car.

Contes drove his car toward the woman and knocked her down. She suffered cuts and bruises and went to the hospital with an ankle injury.

About 15 minutes later, Pasco Deputy Beverly Gordon heard an all-points bulletin for Contes and the vehicle on her police radio. She noticed someone who looked like Contes at a gasoline station on U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes.

Contes was pumping gasoline into the Lexus, and he was alone. When Gordon tried to talk to him, Contes got in the car and sped off. Gordon chased the Lexus, but ended the chase when Contes started weaving in and out of traffic at speeds reaching 108 mph.

Contes turned east on State Road 52 as Lt. Frontz was driving west on the same road. Frontz also had heard the bulletin on Contes, and saw the Lexus whiz past.

Frontz turned his cruiser around and chased Contes.

"I observed him to continue to pass numerous eastbound vehicles, nearly causing a head-on collision with westbound traffic," Frontz wrote in a report. As Contes drove onto I-75, Frontz saw other drivers leave the roadway to avoid a collision.

At one point, Contes was driving 110 mph, Frontz said. Then Contes lost control of the car.

He was charged with strong-arm robbery, burglary battery, aggravated battery with a motor vehicle, fleeing to elude and reckless driving.

Contes, whose license had been suspended for drunken driving, was also wanted on a burglary warrant out of Hillsborough County, authorities said.

He is being held at the county jail in Land O'Lakes on $111,000 bail.

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