An Auburndale man is accused of stealing a police vehicle and leading officers on a short pursuit Wednesday.
Police say they stopped to help the man, who had just been in a crash, when he stole their vehicle.
There was a reported crash at Jersey Road and Havendale Boulevard just before 11 a.m. The location is located in the county, but an Aurburndale police public safety aide, who was driving a traffic investigation truck went to check on people involved in the crash. Three cars were involved.
Lenny Hernandez Garcia, 39, was one of several people involved in the crash. Police say moments later, he stole the truck and took off. There was a brief pursuit, but police say he didn’t get far. He pulled into a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot, crashing into other cars along the way.
Police officers and Polk County Sheriff’s deputies were able to arrest him in the KFC parking lot. He was tasered after not cooperating.
Garcia hit three other cars during the chase: a truck, a sheriff’s patrol car and another small SUV in the KFC drive-through. There were only minor injuries reported.
Auburndale police Chief Andy Ray says Garcia is being charged with burglary of a conveyance, grand theft (of an automobile), and petit theft in relation to the Auburndale Police traffic investigation truck stolen by the suspect.
He will also face two charges of leaving the scene of a traffic crash with injuries, aggravated fleeing to elude, and aggravated assault. All of these charges, with the exception of petit theft, are felonies. Additional charges related to possible impaired driving are pending the analysis of a blood sample provided by Hernandez.
Brian Sells was driving on Havendale Boulevard when he saw Garcia speeding down the road and police trying to stop him. He pulled out his phone and started recording.
“I was already looking for ways to go around if I saw him coming across the road,” Sells said. “I don’t know what was going through his mind. There was already at least 15 cop cars for what happened down there. So to think they could get away was mind-blowing.”