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    Chase tally: 2 arrests, 2 cars, lots of tires

    Police say two suspects take a second car after the tires on their first car are blown out. The second car is also slowed by "stop-sticks.''

    By CHRIS TISCH and LEON TUCKER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000


    Pinellas County deputies arrested two Tampa men early Wednesday after the pair led authorities on a brazen cross-county chase that stretched from the Belleair Beach Causeway to near Pinellas Park, according to sheriff's officials.

    The pursuit almost ended abruptly in the 1200 block of East Bay Drive when deputies used spiked "stop-sticks" to cripple the stolen Oldsmobile the suspects were driving. But the men hustled from the car and sprinted to a convenience store, sheriff's spokesman Deputy Cal Dennie said.

    There, they commandeered a newspaper deliveryman's Mitsubishi, which had been left running in the parking lot, and sped away, Dennie said.

    Dennie said the suspects zigzagged through some Largo streets, then ran over a set of stop-sticks deputies placed at Keene and Belleair roads. With the Mitsubishi's tires shredded, the duo turned onto southbound U.S. 19.

    Deputies bumped the car near U.S. 19 and 126th Avenue, causing the Mitsubishi to bank and slide into a ditch about 3:30 a.m. The pursuit stretched about 12 miles and lasted about 15 minutes.

    No one -- including the suspects -- was injured.

    The Oldsmobile recently was reported stolen in St. Petersburg and reportedly was used in a recent Tampa robbery, Dennie said. Deputies also found two loaded semiautomatic handguns in the Oldsmobile, he said.

    Don E. McCall, 18, of 4202 E Henry Ave. and Devon J. Triplett, 19, of 4214 E Grove Ave., both of Tampa, were arrested.

    Dennie said was driving the Oldsmobile, was arrested on a grand theft auto charge. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail Wednesday evening on $10,000 bail, a jail spokeswoman said.

    A check of Florida Department of Law Enforcement records shows the men did not have prior adult criminal records.

    Triplett was arrested on two charges of grand theft auto and two charges of fleeing to elude officers. He was being held Wednesday at the Pinellas County Jail on $45,250 bail, according to authorities.

    Dennie said additional charges are pending in connection with the stolen cars, while authorities also are investigating any links to the Tampa robbery. Information on that robbery was unavailable Wednesday evening.

    The pursuit began about 3:18 a.m. on the Belleair Beach Causeway when deputies spotted the Oldsmobile going about 70 mph in a 30 mph zone, Dennie said. Deputies tried to pull the pair over on West Bay Drive near Indian Rocks Road, but they kept going east on East Bay Drive until hitting the stop sticks near Highland Avenue, Dennie said.

    With the car disabled, the pair ran to a nearby Split Second station, where they climbed into Frank Hesse's running Mitsubishi. Hesse, 50, of Clearwater, was walking out of the store after delivering newspapers for the St. Petersburg Times when he saw the suspects emerge from some nearby bushes and approach the car.

    "They looked at us, then looked at each other and the next thing I knew, they were in the car," said Hesse, who was filling in for another driver. "I thought about wrestling them to the ground but I saw the way the car was sitting. It could have backed into me, so I said forget it."

    Hesse, who was driving the rental car because his own car was in the shop, said he then flagged down a squad car. The deputy spotted the suspects and began chasing them, Hesse said.

    Dennie, who said he was unsure which of the suspects drove the Mitsubishi, said the pair headed east in the westbound lane, then turned north and drove to Rosery Road. The car darted through some back streets before emerging near Belleair Road and Keene Road, where deputies deployed the second stop-stick.

    Dennie said the car was on its rims after it turned onto U.S. 19. Deputies bumped the car at 126th Avenue. McCall and Triplett were arrested after the driver lost control at U.S. 19 and 118th Avenue, Dennie said.

    Hesse went to where the chase ended, then gathered the remaining papers from the disabled car. He finished the paper route before 6 a.m.

    "This was a sight that could have been on some cop show," he said. "It was just exciting the way the whole thing went down."

    Dennie said deputies complied with the department's pursuit guidelines, which he said are determined by shift supervisors and depend on traffic and weather conditions. He said there were no near-crashes with civilians during the pursuit.

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