ST. PETERSBURG — A short-lived pursuit of a stolen car ended Friday night when the driver crashed into an SUV before rolling the car onto the front lawn of a St. Petersburg house.
No one was injured in the pursuit and subsequent crashes, which began when a member of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Violent Crimes Task Force spotted the stolen car, a Fiat, near 28th Street S and Interstate 275, deputies said.
The Violent Crimes Task Force is a special unit of the Sheriff's Office that includes seven St. Petersburg police officers who work as sworn sheriff's deputies targeting guns and violent offenders.
Task force members followed the car as it drove north on I-275, said Lt. David Danzig, the task force supervisor. When it exited the interstate at 38th Avenue N, the deputies tried to initiate a traffic stop, and the chase began.
The pursuit stretched along 38th Avenue to U.S. 19, where the Fiat turned south, Danzig said. At the intersection of 32nd Avenue N, the car sideswiped an SUV before continuing west for a few hundred yards.
Deputies used a precision immobilization technique to bump into the car and force it off the road near 32nd Avenue and 36th Street, Danzig said, where the car rolled onto the lawn, coming to rest on its left side.
The driver, Akbar Vann, 23, who was not injured, was arrested on charges of grand theft auto and driving with a suspended license. Vann was recently released from prison after serving about a year and a half for multiple drug-related convictions, records show.
The chase came amid a controversy over St. Petersburg's police pursuit policy, which arose after a series of high-speed chases resulted in injuries to bystanders. The issue led St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon to defend his agency's policy — which allows chases when criminals commit forcible felonies such as burglaries — in an address before the City Council on Thursday.