Florida: Four teens die after crashing suspected stolen car during police chase

Francis Akhalbey April 30, 2024
Lawrence L. McClendon Jr. and Jabril Cheevers were among four teenagers killed after they crashed a vehicle during a police chase -- Photos via GoFundMe

Four Florida teenagers were killed after they crashed a suspected stolen car during a police chase on April 20. According to Main Street Daily News, the deceased individuals were aged between 14 and 16 years old. The crash happened in the city of Waldo.

Two of the teens – identified as Jabril Cheevers and Lawrence McClendon Jr. –  were students at Newberry High School. McLendon, a sophomore, also played for the school’s football team. His death comes after his 18-year-old brother, Jermaine Godbolt, was gunned down just last month.

“Lawrence was a great kid to be around and have in our program,” Newberry’s head football coach, Ed Johnson, said. “As a football player he was competitive, talented and relentless with a knack for making big plays. He will be truly missed by everyone in the Panther football family.”

The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) said an investigation into the fatal crash has since been launched. The chief deputy for the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office, Col. Brad Smith, told the news outlet that the pursuit started after the Gainesville Police Department identified a stolen Honda CRV.

“We have some surveillance cameras on the roadways that have license plate readers,” Smith said. “We had a positive hit that [the vehicle] was on State Road 100 heading eastbound coming towards the city of Starke.” 

Smith said the vehicle in question was subsequently pursued by a Bradford patrol unit after it was spotted. “We confirmed with the Gainesville Police Department that they still had that car entered as stolen, and the officer waited until he had three backup units with him before he initiated the traffic stop,” Smith said. “They did start to pull over on the shoulder of the road, but before they came to a complete stop, they accelerated again, and that is when the chase was on.”

Smith said the speed at which the vehicle was going ultimately caused the Bradford County deputies to stop the pursuit as their cars could not match the pace. “The [Florida] Highway Patrol was, at that point, the only vehicle that could actually keep up with them,” Smith said.

“Our vehicles cannot match the speed that they were going, but we did continue one of our units to try and stay as close as they could as a backup unit to FHP until Alachua County’s units were able to catch up to them.” 

The FHP in a statement also said a state trooper who partook in the pursuit “identified that some of the occupants appeared to be wearing ski masks.” During the pursuit, the trooper “made intentional contact with the Honda, causing it to decelerate,” the statement said, per Main Street Daily News.

“The Trooper used the break in speed to perform a Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT maneuver) on the fleeing Honda to stop the threat created by the fleeing suspect. The Honda subsequently rolled over before making contact with a cement pole.” 

Alachua County Fire Rescue also said the car was “wrapped around a concrete utility pole” when they responded to the scene. It took the crew over 90 minutes to remove the four occupants from the vehicle. Two of the teens were pronounced dead at the scene while the other two succumbed to their injuries at a hospital.

In the wake of the fatal incident, Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe urged the community to look into initiatives that can serve as sources of inspiration for young people as that could keep them out of trouble.

“I don’t want to jump to conclusions about a whole town based on a couple of incidents, but I also don’t want to give up on any child. We as a community have an obligation to look out for every single kid in our community,” Marlowe said. “I hope we get some clarity from the investigation so we can make better decisions about how to move forward and to prevent these types of events.” 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: April 30, 2024


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