OCALA, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - A 27 year-old man was still in the Marion County Jail Wednesday after cops said he lead them on a high-speed chase that started with a stolen case of beer.
At about 2 am Tuesday morning, Ocala Police responded to a gas station on SW College Road for a report of a shopper walking out with an 18 pack of Natural Ice beer without paying. According to police, the clerk at the store said the man had fled in a 4x4 truck after walking out.
While the officers were discussing the situation in the parking lot, they reported that a man in a Ford F350 drove erratically, speeding into the parking lot before turning onto College road and speeding away.
Officers pursued the truck through the area noting that the driver had a similar description to the suspect described by the gas station clerks.
When Ocala Police activated their emergency sirens, they said the driver got onto I-75 and eventually reached speeds of 93 miles per hour while swerving back and forth and reportedly sticking his hand out the window multiple times to give officers the ‘peace sign.’
Ocala Officer David Moorehead said at one point the officer threw a can of drink out of their window.
Cops said the vehicle finally came to a stop around the 331 mile marker. Dash cam video of the pursuit shows the driver stick his arms out the driver’s side window while appearing to hold a can of beer in each hand. Officers said he took a drink from one and spilled the other as they pulled him out of the vehicle and took him down at roadside.
Moorehead said they located the 18 pack of Natural Ice in the passenger seat of the truck with 5 cans missing. He said the driver was slurring his speech, had a strong smell of alcohol, and appeared to be intoxicated.
27 year-old Justin Smith was arrested and charged with DUI, reckless driving, retail theft, and fleeing and eluding. Officers said he does have a prior DUI conviction and refused field sobriety tests that night.
While on the way to the jail, officers said the suspect told them he knew they were behind him while he was driving, and he was trying to ‘keep his buzz going.’