JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two police officers were injured Wednesday afternoon when they were struck by a stolen vehicle driven by a suspect fleeing an armed robbery at a business on Mayport Road, near where A1A splits off to the village of Mayport, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
A carjacking victim who neighbors said was 84-year-old and the suspect were also hospitalized after an 8-mile pursuit ended in a crash that blocked Atlantic Boulevard for more than five hours.
JSO Director of Investigations Ron Lendvay described the officers' injuries as serious.
It all started just after 2 p.m. when an armed man in his 20s robbed the Lucky Charms Arcade, an internet cafe on Mayport Road, police said. While the robbery was happening, a person who was watching a live security camera feed of the business called 911, police said.
According to Lendvay, the suspect locked a patron in a restroom and had a clerk empty cash from different areas of the business and put the money in a backpack before running out the back door.
IMAGES: Photos from 5 crime scenes
People who work at the strip mall where the business was robbed didn't hear shots fired but saw several officers running across the parking lot with guns drawn. Jeremy Lewallen was eating lunch at the Wendy’s across the street when he saw the commotion.
"Police were running to the left, running to the right. They were carrying M16s, shotguns, so something obviously happened," Lewallen said.
Lendvay said Jacksonville officers -- along with those from Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach, a helicopter and K-9 teams -- tracked the suspect to a residential neighborhood a few blocks from the internet cafe, where he forced a man into the man's silver SUV, took off and a chase ensued.
Neighbor Sunshine McMullen said she witnessed the SUV driving off with the kidnapping victim inside.
"The guy who took his car just took off. He was trying to slowly get away," she said. "Guess he called the police bluffs because they had their guns pointed and ready to shoot, but he just went slowly and then sped off."
According to JSO, an officer assisting in the pursuit was injured when he was hit by the suspect's vehicle while deploying stop sticks at Mayport Road at Wonderwood Drive a few blocks from the robbery scene.
Police said the officer was taken to Memorial Hospital. A witness said the man was conscious and talking when he was transported from the scene.
Minutes later, a second officer was injured at Kernan Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard when his cruiser was struck as he tried to stop the stolen SUV, which reached speeds of 100 mph, Lendvay said.
A third officer performed a PIT maneuver on the SUV on Atlantic Boulevard just before it reached St. Johns Bluff Road -- about 8 miles from where the initial crime occurred. The SUV spun around and slammed into a concrete power pole, splitting it in half. Power lines fell on the vehicle, causing a small fire, which officers put out with fire extinguishers before firefighters could arrive.
Lendvay said the suspect and the man he carjacked were pulled from the vehicle and transported to the hospital. He could not give the conditions of either of them, but neighbors and family members told News4Jax that the man was in serious condition after suffering broken ribs.
A witness told News4Jax he saw the fire, then two people pulled from the SUV.
"They ... came, took first one out, then came back 15 minutes later (and) they took the second one out," Joe Limehouse said.
Oak Harbor Church posted Wednesday night on Facebook that the man kidnapped is a member of its congregation.
The Sheriff's Office has not yet named any of those involved, but Lendvay said they believe the suspect is a convicted felon who was recently released from prison.
Roads, neighborhoods impacted
Part of Rudder Road at Stern Drive South in the Mayport area was blocked by crime scene tape Wednesday afternoon and several officers were investigating.
One woman saw a man running through her backyard and jumping the fence before police said he kidnapped the other man and stole his car.
Another neighbor, an employee of the Lucky Charms Arcade, said she is thankful Wednesday was her day off.
News4Jax reported an armed robbery at the same internet cafe less than two months ago. There was never information from police that that gunman was arrested.
In the East Arlington area, police closed the eastbound lanes of Atlantic Boulevard between St. Johns Bluff Road and Mindanao Drive for several hours due to the crash and investigation. Westbound Atlantic was closed from Kernan Boulevard to St. Johns Bluff.
Several JTA buses that travel on Atlantic Boulevard were diverted. There was also a power outage, which affected nearly 2,000 customers in an area around the crash scene at one point.
A1A at Wonderwood remained closed while the investigation continued.
By 8 p.m., all eastbound lanes of Atlantic Boulevard and one westbound lane reopened. Two of the westbound lanes remained closed as JEA made repairs to utilities, which were estimated to take at least three hours.