CLEARWATER — A burglary suspect was shot, and three others were injured early Tuesday after ramming a police car with a stolen pickup, police said.
The shooting took place after Clearwater police officers tried to stop the suspects as they were leaving Chateau Wood Drive with at least one stolen motorbike in the pickup shortly after 4 a.m., police said.
The suspect who was shot, 15-year-old Sylvester Keandra Brown, is expected to live, said police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts.
The three other suspects sustained minor injuries in the crash and were all taken to Morton Plant Hospital. They were treated and released to police.
Police identified the three injured in the crash as Deandre Lamar Douglas, 18, and Tony McAffee and Jaquieus Marquis Butler, both 14. All four suspects are from Clearwater, police said.
All four are facing felony charges, Watts said. The investigation is ongoing, but possible charges include grand theft auto, burglary and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, Watts said.
Between them, the four suspects have been arrested 10 times this year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Douglas was released from the Pinellas County Jail two and a half weeks ago after serving time for a grand theft auto conviction, according to Pinellas court records.
Brown has the most extensive criminal record, with 12 arrests in less than four years, FDLE records show.
No police officers were injured.
Clearwater police Officer Kyle Resler shot at the truck after the driver, who has been identified as McAffee, nearly hit two officers and then rammed a cruiser while trying to flee, Watts said.
Watts said Resler was placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure after a shooting.
The stolen white Dodge pickup ended up across a drainage ditch at a Shell gas station at Nursery and Belcher roads. The driver's side window had at least three bullet holes, and the back window was partially shattered.
Police were originally called to the scene by a homeowner who awoke around 4 a.m. and witnessed the burglary. The homeowner called police to report it and was able to give a description of the vehicle.
Several motorbikes have been stolen recently in the neighborhood, said Darrell Hagen, a neighbor who stopped by the crime scene early Tuesday.
Hagen, 37, said three of his motorbikes were stolen last week from a trailer next to his house, about 4 miles west of Tuesday's crime scene.
He said four motorbikes were stolen a month ago from a neighbor, and it happened to someone else within a few blocks of his home.
"They've been hitting us hard," Hagen said.
In addition to Tuesday's incident, there have been two motorcycle thefts and three dirt bike thefts since June in Clearwater, Watts said.
The thefts have been scattered throughout the city and there doesn't appear to be any trend, she said.
But people in the motorbike world say the bikes are frequently stolen and resold, stripped for parts or just taken for joy rides.
"It's been going on for many, many years," said Rob Ruffner, 40, the race team manager at Barney's Motorcycle and Marine. "There's been a lot of dirt bike thefts and four-wheeler thefts, and it just never seems to get enough attention."
Ruffner said the stolen vehicles are used by young thieves or stripped for their parts. They often end up all over the Tampa Bay area. Even though the bikes are often customized, that doesn't stop the thieves from posing with them online or trying to sell their parts on the Internet.
Ruffner said his own pickup, trailer and three motorbikes were stolen from Clearwater in November 2009. He got his pickup and trailer back the next day, but the bikes were gone. One stolen part finally turned up in March, he said, attached to another dirt bike.
"They will break right into your home to get these bikes," he said.
Randy Yoho, owner of Dade City Motorcross, said people come to his racetrack about once a month reporting stolen motorbikes. "It's definitely a problem," he said.