A 22-year-old Floral City man who was due in court Friday led authorities on a high-speed chase through three counties before he wrecked a stolen lawn service truck.
The chase began in Inverness where Citrus County sheriff's deputies responded to a call at 8:22 a.m. about a suspicious vehicle stuck in the dirt, reports state. At the scene, deputies began to question Jeffrey Scott Bush Jr., who suddenly ran off.
That was the start of a chaotic, nearly hourlong pursuit through Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties involving dozens of sheriff's deputies from all three jurisdictions, a helicopter hovering above and punctured tires - which eventually caused Bush to crash into an embankment at Lake Lindsey Road and Snow Memorial Highway.
According to sheriffs' reports from Citrus and Hernando counties, here's how the chase happened:
Bush took off on foot around the Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar in Inverness and hopped into a truck with a flat-bed trailer that was owned by Top Hat Pest Control and Lawn Care.
Bush hit a deputy's patrol car as he turned south on Pleasant Grove Road. Deputies pursued, and soon a Citrus County sheriff's helicopter followed from above.
Reaching speeds up to 70 mph, Bush drove into Hernando County, turning north when reaching U.S. 41 and then east on Lake Lindsey Road toward Nobleton.
By now, Hernando deputies joined the column of flashing lights tailing Bush into Sumter County. There, Sumter deputies put down Stop Sticks to puncture the truck's tires just west of the Interstate 75 overpass.
Bush drove around them, but soon turned around in a wooded lot and headed back where he came from on Lake Lindsey Road.
Citrus deputies put down more Stop Sticks and were able to puncture the front tires of the heavy-duty truck.
With rubber peeling off the tires and the metal wheels scarring the asphalt, Bush continued heading west into Hernando County, where deputies set up more spikes near the intersection of U.S. 41.
Bush struck them and moments later he slid through the T-intersection of Lake Lindsey and Snow Memorial Highway, hitting an embankment.
Steve Brazeau, 35, works at a Hernando County fire station on Lake Lindsey. He heard the deputies chase Bush east and then snapped a few photos when he came back westbound about 15 minutes later.
"We didn't realize what was going on," he said. "They had spike-striped his tires. He was moving as he went by the station. It must have been 60 mph. He never hit the brakes and never stopped."
For Brazeau, it made for quite a morning. "It's a rather quiet environment that we have up here," he said. "It was definitely out of the ordinary. We were surprised the first time, we didn't expect them to come back."
Bush, who was uninjured, surrendered without incident. He told deputies that he was high on drugs and was taken to Brooksville Regional Hospital.
No deputies or bystanders were injured.
Bush is facing an assortment of criminal charges in all three counties. In Citrus alone, he faces grand theft auto, fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer, driving under the influence and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.
Court records show Bush was due in Citrus County court Friday morning at 9 a.m. for a violation of probation hearing. In September 2003, he pleaded no contest to four counts of burglary, but his jail sentence was modified in March 2006 to five years of probation.
Court records indicate he violated his probation terms about five months later and was placed on satellite monitoring.
John Frank can be reached at email@example.com or 860-7312.