LAND O'LAKES — The deputy approached the Goodwill store on State Road 54. In the darkness before dawn, he could make out a man muscling a blue sectional sofa into a truck.
It was 5 a.m. Thursday, well before Goodwill was scheduled to open. Somebody had come by during the night and donated the couch.
As the man began to drive away, Deputy David Roque turned on his blue flashing lights. Heath Labarge, a 35-year-old mason from Land O'Lakes, perspired and seemed nervous, according to a report from the Pasco Sheriff's Office. He said he didn't have his license on him and gave a fake name — James E. Tombs — and the wrong birthday.
Then he jumped in his truck and sped off, leading Roque and other deputies on a 60 mph chase through back roads behind the shopping plaza.
It didn't last long.
On Carson Drive, a section of the sofa tumbled out the back of his truck, the report said. Then, while the truck was still in motion, Labarge bailed out and tried to run away. The truck crashed into a fence. Labarge hurdled two fences and ran into the woods, where he was captured.
He is charged with fleeing to elude, theft, habitually driving with a suspended or revoked license, resisting arrest and violating his felony probation. Labarge's first arrest was at 16 for loitering and prowling. He resisted arrest that time, too, according to records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Thursday marked his 15th arrest. Labarge, who served time in prison for aggravated battery and tampering with a witness, was being held without bail Friday in the Land O'Lakes jail.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.