Cross-County, High-Speed Chase Leaves Residents Shaken
North Central Florida -- It was a difficult day for the Williston Police Department and Residents.
"You could feel the air move from around the truck," said resident Rick Maguire, who witnessed the chase fly by his Auto Shop on Noble Avenue. Maguire recalls, he didn't hear - but rather felt - the truck speeding down U.S. 27. He said, "you did not hear the vehicle, you felt the air push out."
The city doesn't get many high-speed, cross-county car chases.
According to Williston Police Chief Dennis Strow, "in my tenure as chief this is probably the second one of this nature, and both of them actually came out of Marion County."
At about 7 A.M. Wednesday, Marion County Sheriff's Deputies located a stolen 2008 black Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck and when the driver didn't stop, a high-speed pursuit was initiated. It started in Marion County but continued through Levy County, and at some points, the driver was going the wrong way at dangerous speeds.
Strow recalled, "as the truck came in, it was actually northbound in the southbound lanes at a very high rate of speed and I estimate it was somewhere near a hundred miles an hour."
Strow said the truck entered Williston in the correct lanes, still going nearly a hundred miles an hour, but what Maguire witnessed was still disturbing.
According to Maguire, "he was actually in the median, passing traffic." Maguire also witnessed the driver run a traffic light along U.S. 27.
Strow and his officers were following behind more than a dozen Levy and Marion County police cars as the truck sped down U.S. 27.
Strow recalled, "between Williston and Bronson, the truck lost control and spun out and actually went across the median, across the southbound lanes and ended up in a far ditch." Tthat's when officers tried to corner the truck but the driver wouldn't let that happen.
"He actually drove over the front of one of the Marion County cars," according to Strow.
The driver sped down U.S. 27 crossing through Gilchrist County and ended the chase in Dixie County when Sheriff Dewey Hatcher's patrol vehicle crashed with the truck. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene and a 17-year-old male and 15-year-old female were treated at a nearby hospital.
No names have been released yet and officials said there was a gun inside the truck.
There's no word yet on Sheriff Hatcher's condition but FDLE is investigating the use of force by Hatcher and the Marion County Sheriff's Office is investigating the vehicle theft.
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