ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A bloodied man who managed to break away from an arrest took an unmarked cruiser and led deputies on a high speed chase, according to a spokesperson for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Chuck Mulligan with the Sheriff's Office said deputies were looking for the driver of a vehicle that was driving recklessly near I-95 and State Road 16 shortly after 6 p.m. A deputy in the area spotted the car and approached the vehicle.
The driver of the vehicle, a man, got out of the car, and another person, a woman, also exited and went in the opposite direction, Mulligan said. She did not pose a threat. A deputy noticed the man was covered in blood. The deputy offered assistance, but the man was combative and ran into traffic. The deputy attempted to use his Taser on the man, but the wire broke.
Mulligan said an off-duty lieutenant in an unmarked cruiser saw the confrontation and stopped to assist. When the lieutenant went to the rear of the vehicle to get equipment, the man broke free from the deputy who was attempting to handcuff the man, and the man took off in the unmarked crusier, heading south on I-95.
"That was a very bold move to get in a police car and try to flee from police," said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson.
Deputies gave chase, and one of the pursuing deputies performed a PIT manuever on I-95 south near the exit for State Road 206, bringing the undercover cruiser to a halt, according to Mulligan. A PIT maneuver is a pursuit tactic by which a pursuing car can force a fleeing car to turn sideways and stop.
"The PIT maneuver, better known as pursuit intervention technique, is somewhat of a risky move, but they're trained to wait until the conditions are right before attempting this kind of maneuver to avoid the use of deadly force," Jefferson said.
Mulligan said the driver was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He said the driver was suspected in "a series of criminal events" that occurred in Jacksonville, but he could not give specifics. It's believed that's how the man sustained his injuries. Mulligan could not give any details about the woman who was seen getting out of the original vehicle.
As of Wednesday night, the driver remained hospitalized in critical, but stable condition, according to Mulligan.
No shots were fired and no deputies were injuried, Mulligan said. The highway reopened to traffic shortly after 10:30 p.m.