Child dies following pursuit of kidnapping suspect ending with crash in pond, police say

Pursuit lasted approximately 30 miles from Jacksonville’s Northside to I-95 near State Road 9B, JSO says

Dive teams found the body of a 5-year-old girl at the bottom of a pond, after a high-speed chase on I-95. It began with a suspected kidnapping on the Northside and ended at the Duval - St. Johns County line.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 5-year-old died Thursday night during the pursuit of a kidnapping suspect after the vehicle that was being pursued drove into a retention pond off I-95 near the State Road 9B exit, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Officer Christian Hancock, with the Sheriff’s Office, said police got word of a reported kidnapping in progress just after 7:30 p.m. Thursday on the city’s Northside.

As officers were en route to the call, Hancock said, an officer came up to the suspect’s vehicle. He noted that the suspect and the 5-year-old girl were known to each other.

“As the officer turned to approach the vehicle from behind, the suspect sped off, obviously seeing the officer, and a pursuit began at that point as we were responding to a kidnapping in progress with an armed suspect,” Hancock said.

Hancock said the pursuit, which included dozens of officers, lasted from Dunn Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard, got up on I-95 south, proceeded through Jacksonville over the Fuller Warren Bridge and ended up near the exit for 9B -- approximately 30 miles.

Police said the driver hit speeds over 90 mph during the chase.

A News4JAX employee was traveling southbound on I-95 when their dash camera captured a vehicle traveling on the shoulder at a high rate of speed. Several police cruisers appeared to be pursuing the SUV.

The video was taken near the Old St. Augustine Road exit — just a few miles away from the scene of the crash.

“The driver was able to maintain until we got to this point, at which time she attempted to exit 9B,” Hancock said, which is when the driver drove off the ramp and into the pond.

According to Hancock, numerous officers got out of their vehicles and went into the water, where the suspect was apprehended. Her name has not yet been released.

Hancock said the child was not immediately located. The fire department and dive team came out to help locate the child.

“The child was, unfortunately, located at the bottom of the pond, deceased,” Hancock said. She was outside the SUV when she was found.

He added, “At this time, the suspect will be arrested for charges stemming from this incident, at least to include traffic homicide and a couple of others.”

Police also say that the woman had a knife at the time of the kidnapping.

Hancock said additional charges will likely be pending.

Crews pulled the SUV out of the pond at about 2:30 a.m. Friday. It was severely damaged and smashed on the passenger side. The front passenger door was ripped off, and all the windows were busted out. Hancock said no other vehicles were damaged during the pursuit.

One officer was hurt running into the pond after the crash and had to be taken to the hospital, but they are expected to be OK.

About the Authors:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.