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Police: 16-year-old drove stolen SUV in fatal Friday crash

ST. PETERSBURG — Authorities have identified the driver accused of leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase Friday night in a stolen SUV and then driving it through a red light, killing one.

He is 16-year-old Ramesse Harris.

Authorities said he led a Manatee County sheriff's deputy on a high-speed chase over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and into the city, then sped through a red light and plowed into the side of a car.

The St. Petersburg man who died in the crash was identified as Gary Lane Smith, 56. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene at 10:01 p.m., police said.

"The suspect vehicle … T-boned the car at a high rate of speed," said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.

Harris was arrested by St. Petersburg officer while trying to run away on an injured leg, police said. He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center for treatment, then he was booked Saturday morning into the Pinellas County Juvenile Assessment Center.

Harris, of 639 24th St. E in Bradenton, faces charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of a crash involving death and aggravated fleeing and eluding involving death in Pinellas County. Manatee County added charges of grand theft auto, aggravated fleeing and eluding and driving without a valid driver's license.

The chase started around 9:40 p.m. Friday when a Manatee deputy spotted the stolen white 2001 Lexus SUV near the 2700 block of First Street in Brandenton, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The deputy attempted to pull the SUV over but it would not stop, authorities said, and instead sped north over the Green Bridge, then through Palmetto, then onto I-275, then onto and over the bridge.

But when the Lexus got off at the 31st Street S exit, a supervisor ordered the deputy to end the pursuit, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The deputy said the Lexus hit the off-ramp at 75 mph. A St. Petersburg police officer tried to use a spiked device to blow out the Lexus' tires at the bottom of the off-ramp but the vehicle kept going.

The SUV sped north on 31st Street, toward the Fifth Avenue S intersection. Smith was headed west on Fifth Avenue in a 1997 Infiniti.

The stolen vehicle ran the red light and struck the driver's side of the Infiniti, police said.

St. Petersburg police said none of their officers pursued the Lexus at any time.

"Generally, we don't get involved in other agencies' pursuits," said Lt. Markus Hughes.

After the crash Harris gave police a false identity and age, posing as a 22-year-old man.

It will be up to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office to determine whether Harris should be charged as an adult in this case.

Check for more updates.

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Police: 16-year-old drove stolen SUV in fatal Friday crash 09/03/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 4, 2010 10:33am]
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