FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Officers with the Fernandina Beach Police Department shot a man Monday morning who tried to walk out of a Walmart with a television, threatened an employee with a syringe, then led police on a high-speed pursuit, police said.
Police said the man sped off from the Walmart on 14th Street in a black pickup truck, running over curbs and fish-tailing through the parking lot. Security gave a description of the truck and the man to police, who caught up with the suspect quickly.
Police chased the truck at speeds of up to 80 mph with the pickup busting through construction barricades and making U-turns when the driver nearly ran into a dead-end marsh on Bonneview Road. He became trapped by police, rammed a police cruiser near Russell Road and landed in a ditch when he tried to make another U-turn.
"He had a death wish, because he wasn't going to let up, he wasn't going to let them catch him," said Tim Waldrip, who was working in his backyard and witnessed the chase. "He was full-fledged, just wide-open, didn't even hesitate to stop when he came across the barricades there and just busted through both barricades and it was just clamped onto the front of his truck and he did not let down. And you could see the cops were just a few seconds right behind him."
At some point, an officer fired shots, hitting the driver one time in the head. The man, who has not been identified, was airlifted to UF Health Jacksonville with life-threatening injuries.
No officers were hurt.
Police said a woman, who was a passenger in the pickup, appeared highly intoxicated, suffered a shoulder injury and was also hospitalized. Police said she was not cooperative, but she did say the vehicle belonged to someone else. She has not been charged.
Police said the television and the syringe were found inside the pickup.
The police-involved shooting is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.