EUSTIS – A man attempting to flee a local department store with $500 worth of stolen baby clothes was in such a hurry to get away that he was involved in a hit-and-run in a neighboring community.
The Eustis Police Department in northern Lake County was searching for the man who officers believe had just robbed a Bealls Department Store when they were contacted by the Mount Dora Police Department and advised that the suspect’s Dodge Magnum had just been involved in a hit-and-run crash in the area of U.S. 441 and State Road 46.
The suspect managed to escape the scene of the crash and has not been identified at this time, said Officer Robert Simken, the community relations officer and public information officer for the Eustis Police Department.
Simken released still photos of the suspect taken from video surveillance cameras in the department store, and added, “We encourage viewers to view the video to help identify the suspect.”
Anyone with information about the man involved in either the robbery or the hit-and-run crash is being asked to call the Eustis Police Department at 352-483-5400 or Crimeline at 1-800-423-Tips (8477).
The investigation started on Tuesday, July 10 around 4:35 p.m., when Eustis Police officers got a call from employees at the Bealls Department Store at 2802 David Walker Drive, about a shoplifting in progress.
A Bealls loss prevention officer informed Eustis Police Department dispatch that the shoplifter had fled the parking lot in a Gray Dodge Magnum with a Florida Tag AWSV30.
Corporal Jeffrey Breedlove responded to the scene, where the loss prevention officer provided him with a description of the suspect.
The shoplifter was described as a man with a goatee, in his late teens to early 20’s, with an average height and build. The man was wearing a striped short sleeve button up shirt with a denim vest, blue jeans, and black and white Nike tennis shoes.
Officers searching for the man in the city were informed that a similar vehicle to the one he’d driven off in had just been spotted traveling south on U.S. 441. The officers got confirmation of the vehicle’s description and tag, and Officer John Snow was able to locate the car and attempt a traffic stop.
The driver refused to stop, though, failing to yield as he “continued driving at a high rate of speed while utilizing the median to overtake rush-hour traffic on the busy, six-lane highway,” Simken noted in his report on the case.
Snow made note of the fact that there were two people in the car, and because the vehicle was moving at such a recklessly high rate of speed, he put a halt to the attempted traffic stop to ensure public safety.
Not long afterwards, Mount Dora Police reported, the vehicle did lose control. It’s not clear if the suspects were injured in the crash.
Corporal Breedlove reviewed the department store’s video surveillance, which showed the shoplifter entering the infant clothing section and grabbing numerous items from racks and shelves.
The video also showed the suspect leaving the infant area and walking out of the store without stopping to pay for any of the items.
Bealls’ loss prevention officer reported that based on the surveillance video, he estimated the suspect stole roughly 25 items of infant clothing valued at $557.
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