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Chase magnifies teen's troubles

Published Oct. 2, 2005

Ask commuters how long it takes to get from north Pinellas County to Hudson and they will probably tell you 20 to 25 minutes minimum.

Amber Marie Williamson made it in about 10.

Speeding up to 120 mph in her mother's Buick Century, the teenager led officers on a 20-mile chase in two counties early Monday, ramming two marked patrol cars and struggling with officers before being arrested on U.S. 19 near Beacon Woods, police say.

Authorities said Williamson, whose 16th birthday was Monday, already had a long arrest record and was about to be sentenced that same day to five years as a habitual juvenile offender.

"She was about to do some serious time, and she did not want to go," said Pasco sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers. "Fortunately, at 2 in the morning, the traffic was fairly light and there were no pedestrians or other drivers injured."

One deputy suffered a broken wrist in a struggle with Williamson, who is 5 feet tall, 93 pounds and known as "Lil Bit." She has the moniker tattooed on her left shoulder, according to an arrest report.

Williamson was subdued with pepper spray and taken into custody about 2:19 a.m., just 10 minutes after the chase started on Alternate U.S. 19 at Alderman Road in the Crystal Beach area of north Pinellas County.

Williamson, who does not have a license, ran several drivers off the road, ran red lights and, at one point, was heading north in the southbound lane of U.S. 19, authorities said.

"It sounds like one of your rebellious teenagers who did everything she could to keep from being responsible," said Sgt. Greg Tita, spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. "She planned to leave the state of Florida. She didn't want to face the judge. Happy Birthday."

With a felony arrest record that includes grand theft auto, burglary and credit card fraud, Williamson now faces multiple counts of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, aggravated fleeing to elude, reckless driving and resisting arrest with violence. She was held in the juvenile detention center late Monday.

Pinellas deputies first saw Williamson, who lives with her mother in Holiday, driving erratically about 2:09 a.m. in Crystal Beach. Deputies tried to stop her with a stop stick placed in the road but she avoided it, rammed a deputy's car and headed north on Alternate U.S. 19 into Tarpon Springs. A stop stick is a spiked rod designed to puncture tires.

Two deputies running radar on U.S. 19 near Darlington Road in Holiday picked up the chase and clocked Williamson doing about 112 mph, according to reports. About a dozen deputies were put on alert after hearing Tarpon Springs police call for help, Powers said. Pasco County deputies are permitted to pursue a suspected felon as long as the speed, traffic and weather conditions do not endanger the public or officers, Powers said.

Pasco officers blocked off the main intersections along U.S. 19 to keep other drivers off the road. The chase continued to just north of State Road 52, where Williamson tried to make a U-turn. She lost control and landed in the median.

Her car blocked in by four patrol cars, Williamson stepped on the gas and rammed one deputy's car, police said. She then put the car in reverse and rammed another.

She continued to struggle when officers tried to pull her out of the car, authorities said. One deputy fell to the ground, breaking his wrist. Williamson was finally subdued with pepper spray and handcuffed. Deputies said they found a bag of marijuana on the front seat and charged her with possession. It is not clear whether she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Powers said Williamson has been arrested more than a dozen times in Pasco on charges of grand theft, grand theft auto, burglary, forged checks and credit card fraud. Her mother had reported her car stolen Sunday afternoon.

Williamson told deputies she had keys made for the car a few days ago because she planned to run away.

"We don't know where she was planning to go," Powers said, "but she had clothes and personal items in the car with her."

_ Times staff writer Eric Stirgus contributed to this report.