Sheriff: 3 teens, ‘prolific offenders,’ dead after crashing stolen SUV

It came to a deadly end around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, near U.S. 19 and Tampa Road. Three teens were killed and another was hurt.

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Three teenagers who the sheriff called “prolific offenders” are dead after leading deputies on a chase after their stolen vehicles.

Six teens have been “running in tandem” since stealing a Ford Explorer and a Chrysler Sebring on Aug. 3 from a Clearwater car lot, said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who called the situation a “game” they played — steal cars, drive at high speed overnight and do it again the next day.

It came to a deadly end around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, near U.S. 19 and Tampa Road. Three teens were killed and another was hurt.

Southbound U.S. 19 is closed until further notice.

A deputy caught sight of the Explorer around 1 a.m. on SR 580 at Belcher Road as it was on a hot list of stolen vehicles, Gualtieri said. The deputy began pursuit but lost sight.

Hours later, another deputy saw the Explorer with the stolen Sebring together in the East Lake Woodlands community in Oldsmar. Because of the history of burglaries in this neighborhood, deputies set up a perimeter and lockdown of the area and a helicopter was up.

They were unable to locate the vehicle. 

Around 4:30 a.m., a deputy spotted the vehicles heading westbound on Tampa Road playing “cat and mouse,” said Gualtieri, describing the vehicles as they would speed up and slow down.

One was clocked at going in excess of 100 mph, the sheriff said.

An uninvolved citizen in their car was hit by the Explorer that likely ran a red light, Gualtieri said. The Explorer went airborne, hit a billboard and several other cars and fixed objects on the road. It spun out, rolled and burst into flames before coming to a complete stop.

Three teens were killed, while another was seriously hurt as they were thrown from the SUV and taken to an area hospital. One of the males still was wearing gloves connected to the burglaries, Gualtieri said.

The Sebring was found on Sunset Point Road in Clearwater a short time later, and two males were arrested.

The teens have “extremely lengthy” criminal histories, with some released from jail a few days ago, Gualtieri said.

Their identities are not yet known.

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