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Two-county chase ends with charges

A truck stolen in Pasco County is chased from Sumter to Citrus at speeds up to 115 mph, officials say.

After a chase that crossed two counties at speeds of up to 115 mph and ended with the crash of a stolen truck in front of a Floral City market, a 20-year-old Lacoochee woman and her 14-year-old passenger were arrested Thursday morning.

The chase began in Bushnell in Sumter County. About 10:30 a.m., Rick West, 33, was heading to a landscaping job in Bushnell when he was surprised to see his white pickup pulling into the Farm Store on Main Street. He had reported it stolen about 7 a.m. from his home 22 miles south in Dade City.

West called Bushnell police. A Sumter County sheriff's deputy and Bushnell Officer Tom Valdez responded. The woman and girl in the truck sped away.

A man initially seen driving the truck ran from the store. He had not been found late Thursday, but Dade City police officials are searching for him, Valdez said.

Valdez spotted the truck heading for County Road 48 and fell in behind, as did the deputy. Valdez said his speedometer climbed to 115 mph during the pursuit into Citrus County, though it dropped considerably once in Floral City.

Reports say that after the narrow 90-degree turn where Orange Avenue meets U.S. 41, the driver turned hard right at Old Floral City Road, one street before U.S. 41. But the front end of the Ford F-150, which authorities say the two had stolen that morning, did not make the turn and instead struck a metal pole supporting a sign for a grocery store.

After crashing, the driver jumped from the truck and ran, only to be tackled by Valdez.

The driver, Cody Rachael Register, 20, of Lacoochee, was charged with grand theft, resisting arrest without violence, reckless driving, fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief, driving without a valid driver's license and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage.

Valdez said Register previously has been charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor, but he did not know the specific crimes.

Register's 14-year-old passenger, whose name was not released, is accused of being a principal to a first-degree felony.

Except for their involvement in the car theft, Valdez said, the two appeared to have no other reason to flee from police. "They just said they were scared," he said.

Pursuing car theft suspects at such high speeds is warranted, "as long as we're not endangering the public," Valdez said. "There wasn't a lot of traffic."

West said he has no idea why someone would steal his truck and then track the same path north to Bushnell that he did. "I've never seen these people before."