Man steals front-end loader, leads police on 90-minute chase

A stolen front-end loader runs out of gas, and it's over.
Published December 7 2014
Updated December 8 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — A man driving a stolen vehicle no faster than 25 mph nevertheless led police on a 90-minute chase through north St. Petersburg neighborhoods Saturday night before they could arrest him.

That's because the vehicle was a 20-ton front-end loader stolen from a construction site and officers had no means to corral it.

Each time officers tried to cut off the machine's path with a police car roadblock, Donald John Clark, 32, the man authorities said was behind the wheel, plowed ahead. Officers were forced to clear a path at the last second in a recurring game of chicken.

The chase, really more of a shadowing of the plodding vehicle, finally came to an end in Shore Acres when the front-end loader ran out of gas. Clark, of St. Petersburg, was taken into custody after he tried to flee from officers, resisted attempts to arrest him and was subdued by a Taser, police said.

Police first received a report of someone driving the front-end loader erratically near 16th Street and 62nd Avenue N, according to police. An officer began following the vehicle, a $250,000 Volvo L110G, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N and used sirens and emergency lights to try and stop the driver, but Clark ignored him. He drove onto side streets and through neighborhoods, hitting curbs and running stop signs.

The pursuit took Clark and responding officers along 38th Avenue N, as well as both north and south on Fourth Street and in and out of adjacent neighborhoods. It came to an end in the 1900 block of Arrowhead Drive NE in Shore Acres, police reported.

Police have determined the vehicle was stolen from a construction site near the Valpak complex west of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg.

Clark is being held in lieu of $35,000 bail at the Pinellas County jail. He has been arrested on several occasions for operating a vehicle while his license was suspended, disorderly conduct and driving under the influence. He served time in jail for a DUI in 2012.