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Driver accused of stealing truck caught after chase through Hillsborough and Pasco counties

TAMPA — A dirt road finally stopped a two-county, slow-speed chase of a stolen box truck after deputies pointed guns at the suspect and used stop sticks to puncture the truck's tires.

Along the way, the fleeing driver backed into a deputy's cruiser, nearly ran over another deputy and tried to elude officers from Hillsborough County, Pasco County and the Florida Highway Patrol, authorities said.

The suspect who was eventually arrested, 45-year-old Johnny Ray May, of 1622 S 51st St. in Tampa, was already on probation for fleeing to elude, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office said.

Authorities said the stolen truck was valued at $175,000. Damages to the cruiser struck during the pursuit were estimated at $12,000.

It began just before 9 p.m. Saturday when a manager at Nortrax John Deere Forestry Equipment contacted authorities to say that a 25-foot International truck had been stolen in Pasco County and was being tracked by a global positioning system to be near U.S. 301 and Adamo Drive in Hillsborough.

A deputy soon spotted the truck and followed it until other deputies could arrive. The deputies then tried to force the truck to stop near 24th Avenue and S 50th Street. The suspect slowed, but then thrust the truck in reverse — crashing into a cruiser, the Sheriff's Office said.

Other deputies pointed their guns at the driver and ordered him to stop, but he sped off, nearly striking one of them.

Neither deputy was injured and no shots were fired.

The chase, averaging 40 mph but sometimes going as slow as 13 mph, continued through Tampa, Temple Terrace, Zephyrhills and Dade City.

Authorities blocked intersections and used stop sticks on the truck, but it kept going even after its six tires had been punctured.

About 10:30 p.m. and several miles north of Dade City, the truck turned west on Christian Road, which becomes a dirt road. The truck's rims dug into the dirt, ending the chase.

The Sheriff's Office said May has an extensive criminal past of drug crimes and fleeing law enforcement.

He now faces charges of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, aggravated fleeing to elude, first-degree grand theft and burglary.

Driver accused of stealing truck caught after chase through Hillsborough and Pasco counties 01/22/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 22, 2012 9:13pm]
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