PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – Three teenage “prolific offenders” are dead following a crash in Palm Harbor involving a stolen car.
In a news conference on Sunday morning, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri described the incident as “an unfortunate continuation of the epidemic of juveniles engaging in the deadly game of auto burglary and auto thefts.”
The sheriff’s office is not identifying the three teens who were killed, but say they are young, black males with extensive criminal histories. Some were released from jail as recently as a few days ago, according to Sheriff Gualtieri.
Deputies say the teens stole two cars from a car lot earlier this week, a Ford Explorer and a Chrysler Sebring.
Around 1:30 Sunday morning deputies saw and recognized one of the stolen cars, but lost sight of it when it drove away.
Just a few hours later, another deputy saw both stolen cars go into a housing community. A helicopter was sent out to try and find them and a perimeter around the community was put in place.
Shortly after, the cars were seen again on the road again playing what the sheriff described as a “cat and mouse game” where one car slows and the other speeds up.
Right before the crash, deputies say the Explorer sped up and the Sebring slowed down. The deputy who was following the cars decided to turn around at that point to try and stop the Sebring.
The Explorer hit a speed of more than 100 miles per hour, according to the sheriff, and flew through the intersection of US-19 and Tampa Road, crashing into an uninvolved car.
Sheriff Gualtieri says the Explorer then went airborne and crashed into several cars in a car lot. The car then hit a billboard pole, spun off and hit several other objects before bursting into flames.
Two boys were found dead inside the Explorer. One was ejected. Deputies say a fourth was taken to the hospital.
The sheriff says two other black males are in custody. There is no word yet on what charges will be filed.