Man charged in deadly Mayport crime spree pleads not guilty

Lawrence Hall accused of kidnapping elderly veteran, leading police on chase

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 26-year-old man facing attempted murder and other charges in connection with a crime spree that Jacksonville police said included the kidnapping of an elderly veteran pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

The veteran, 84-year-old Louis Reese, later died from injuries suffered in the violent crash that ended a high-speed chase, which stretched from Atlantic Beach to East Arlington.

The chase also left two Jacksonville officers injured.

After the crime spree, Lawrence Hall III was initially charged with fleeing a law enforcement officer and attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office later announced that more charges had been added against Hall, including kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, burglary and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Hall, who was hospitalized at Memorial Hospital after the Jan. 2 incident, was rolled into court in a wheelchair Tuesday, where his attorney entered his not guilty plea.

The State Attorney’s Office told the judge that if convicted as charged, Hall will face life in prison. His next court date is March 26. 

Hall is accused of robbing an internet cafe at gunpoint, abducting Reese from his home to use his SUV as a getaway vehicle and striking two police officers -- one on foot and another in his cruiser -- before crashing into a concrete pole at Atlantic Boulevard and St. Johns Bluff Road.

Reese was critically injured in the crash, suffering broken ribs, a broken leg, a broken arm, a broken spine, a collapsed lung and a punctured lung. He succumbed to his injuries Jan. 8.

Hall had been released from prison Sept. 9 after a conviction for burglary and fleeing from police in a U-Haul truck in 2014. Hall pleaded guilty and served four years in prison.

Chaotic crime spree

In last month's violent crime spree, police said a man in his 20s who had a gun robbed the Lucky Charms Arcade, an internet cafe on Mayport Road, just after 2 p.m. While the robbery was happening, a person who was watching a live security camera feed of the business called 911, police said.

According to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Director of Investigations Ron Lendvay, the suspect, later identified as Hall, 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. 

Lendvay said Jacksonville officers -- along with officers from Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach and a helicopter and K-9 teams -- tracked Hall to a residential neighborhood a few blocks from the internet cafe, where he forced Reese into Reese's silver SUV. He took off and a chase ensued.

According to JSO, Officer Josh Wiggins, 35, was struck by the stolen SUV while deploying stop sticks at Mayport Road and Wonderwood Drive, a few blocks north of the robbery scene. 

Minutes later, Officer Christopher Rouselle, 29, was injured at Kernan and Atlantic boulevards when his cruiser was struck as he tried to stop the stolen SUV, which reached speeds over 100 mph, police said.

A third officer performed a Pursuit Intervention Technique, or 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 the pole in half. Power lines fell on the vehicle, causing a small fire, which officers put out with fire extinguishers before firefighters arrived.

Hall and Reese were pulled from the vehicle and transported to the hospital. 

Police said they recovered Hall's gun, the backpack and the cash stolen from Lucky Charms near where Reese was kidnapped.

Wiggins and Rouselle were also treated at Memorial Hospital.

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