It's bad enough getting rear-ended, but add four juveniles and a stolen vehicle to the mix and things get real messy.
Russell Swain, his 12-year-old son, and his son's buddy, also 12, were driving home Sunday after spending some time on a personal watercraft on Lake Seminole. They were waiting for the light to turn green at Park and Seminole boulevards. Suddenly, a Chevrolet Suburban rear-ended the trailer hooked to Swain's Ford van.
It was more than just a minor bump. "It was enough to push (the personal watercraft) up far enough to damage it," said Swain, an electrician who lives in Seminole and turns 39 today.
Swain said he and the Suburban's driver agreed to pull into an abandoned gas station on the northwest corner of the intersection. But when the light turned green, the Suburban drove around Swain and continued on Park Boulevard.
Swain followed the Suburban, flashing his lights and waving to the driver to pull over. They pulled into a parking lot at Seminole Mall near an Amoco gas station at 113th Street and Park Boulevard.
Swain said he asked the driver for his license and insurance card, but the teenagers asked him if he'd take $100 instead. "I knew something was not right from that minute forward," Swain said.
He was right. Turns out, the teens, all from Savannah, Ga., were suspected of having stolen the 1998 Suburban from Georgia.
Swain said they tried to get back into the Suburban, but he held on to one of them. He got loose and took off running with his friends. Swain called 911 on his cell phone and the chase began.
Police cruisers and a police helicopter swooped down on the four juveniles, who were arrested near Seminole Garden Apartments behind the mall, said Cal Dennie, a spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Jerral Smart, 17, Willie Pierce, 15, Sedane Doyle, 17, and Jacob Hendrix, 17, were charged with grand theft auto, Dennie said.
"To keep on going and to follow them and to react that quickly is kind of my nature," Swain said. "Anyway, I wanted them caught."
Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita said Swain put himself in danger. "We can compare this with what every police officer goes through when they pull someone over," he said. "They never know who they're approaching.
"He's very lucky, but he did the right thing."