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Armed robbery ends with chase, crash

ST. PETERSBURG — People suspected in a Tampa armed robbery led police on a high-speed chase across the Howard Frankland Bridge late Sunday before crashing into a power pole in downtown St. Petersburg.

One person was extricated from the crashed white Chevrolet by fire rescue personnel at Fourth Avenue and First Street NE and taken away by ambulance, as Tampa and St. Petersburg police interviewed witnesses. Police later said that person, who was a passenger in the back seat, had died at the scene.

Police had one man in custody in the back of a patrol car and were searching for one more person, St. Petersburg police said. Junior Rodney, 17, of Orlando, was charged with armed robbery and aggravated fleeing and was booked into Pinellas County Jail.

Tampa authorities said the incident began with an armed, street robbery in the 2600 block of West Kennedy Boulevard shortly after 10 p.m. The suspects pointed a gun to the victim's head and demanded his wallet, police said. The victim described the robbers' getaway car as a white Chevrolet Malibu.

Tampa patrol officers spotted the car shortly thereafter and began a pursuit that topped 120 mph at times.

En route to St. Petersburg, Tampa police say someone in the car, once on Interstate 275, threw a short-barreled shotgun out of the car near the Lois Avenue exit. Once on the Howard Frankland, they also threw a wallet, mask and gloves out of the car.

A helicopter for Tampa police also joined the pursuit over Tampa Bay. As the chase moved down Pinellas County's portion of I-275, St. Petersburg police joined the chase and Tampa called off its patrol cars.

The chase moved onto I-375 and orders came from the helicopter to abandon the pursuit, as speeds were close to 100 mph as it neared surface roads, Tampa police said.

Joseph Greer, who was on his girlfriend's porch on Grove Street, watched the car come off of I-375 at a high rate of speed with two police officers following.

"They just came off the highway going incredibly fast. (Then) there was a loud bang and a bright flash of light," said Greer, 22.

Power was knocked out briefly at surrounding homes and apartments.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4162.

Armed robbery ends with chase, crash 09/08/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 2:24pm]

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