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Tampa man held in N.Y. theft, chase

Published Oct. 8, 2005

A Tampa man, one of two suspects accused of armed robbery and leading police on a high-speed chase through two states, was being held in the Columbia County Jail on Thursday on $20,000 bail, authorities said.

Police pursued Lamika Cruz of Tampa and John Lee Jones through the Albany, N.Y., area, into Massachusetts and eventually to Columbia County on Wednesday at speeds reaching more than 125 mph before the suspects' car hit a deer and crashed into an embankment, State Trooper Robert L. Hogan Jr. said.

Cruz, 20, and Jones, 39, of Albany loaded a shopping cart with 35 cartons of cigarettes at a department store in Colonie, an Albany suburb, Wednesday afternoon, said Hogan of Troop K in Poughkeepsie.

A third suspect, Nathaniel Douglas Jr., 44, blocked employees' view of the other suspects as they loaded the shopping cart and left the store, Colonie police said.

As the two suspects were leaving the store, a security officer confronted Cruz, who was pushing the shopping cart. Jones then threatened the guard with a knife, police said.

The duo drove away, and led police on the chase, which ended when their car hit a deer and crashed in the Village of Valatie, 15 miles south of Albany, police said.

A state trooper fired a gun as officers were trying to arrest the suspects. The bullet grazed Jones, police said. Both suspects were treated at Columbia-Greene Medical Center in Hudson and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Charges against the pair include criminal possession of stolen property, reckless endangerment, driving while intoxicated and driving while impaired by drugs, Hogan said.

Police arrested Douglas at the store and charged him with one count of petty larceny in Colonie Town Court. He was then arrested by Albany police on a bench warrant for an unpaid fine. Douglas was released pending a Nov. 16 court appearance in Colonie.