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  1. News

Man in stolen truck leads troopers on 3-county pursuit into Hernando, fires shots before crashing

Following a stolen-vehicle chase that spanned three counties and included shots fired at police, a 22-year-old suspect was airlifted with critical injuries on Sunday after he was ejected from the stolen truck, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers say the series of events began after Travis Lovett, of Bushnell, stole a 2007 Ford pickup truck just after 9:30 Sunday morning in Citrus County. When confronted by two county deputies on State Road 44, he attempted to run them over before fleeing, sparking a chase that led officers into a pursuit through Hernando and Sumter counties.

While fleeing through Hernando County on County Road 476, troopers say Lovett fired three rounds at troopers while he drove, striking a patrol car. He then continued driving eastbound into Sumter, where the chase would come to an end.

To stop Lovett, troopers performed the "PIT maneuver" — Pursuit Intervention Technique — resulting in the truck overturning multiple times onto the road's south shoulder, according to FHP.

"Incidents like this are always extremely dangerous. We try to use every precaution possible when we respond to these types of incidents," Citrus County Sheriff said Mike Prendergast said in a news release. "When we have a suspect who is hell-bent on avoiding all contact with law enforcement, their behavior becomes unpredictable and erratic. This is especially true if they are dead set on not being caught, then they will risk their life, the lives of innocent citizens, and the lives of all our law enforcement deputies."

Lovett, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected in the crash, troopers said. He was airlifted to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and later transferred to Tampa General Hospital, troopers said. His condition is not yet known.

Troopers did not say what charges against Lovett may be, but did say he was the only person injured in the chase.

Contact Josh Fiallo at jfiallo@tampabay.com. Follow @ByJoshFiallo.

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