Police: Fla. man raced up I-95 in stolen truck

An hour-long, high-speed police chase ended in Woodbridge on Wednesday afternoon when state troopers fired shots into the radiator of a stolen tractor-trailer truck — forcing the fugitive driver to come to a stop.

The heated pursuit began in Hanover County when a Florida man stole a tractor-trailer from a truck stop and headed north on Interstate 95, police said. He struck three cars but kept going, said state police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell.

State troopers began chasing the truck in Hanover and followed it up I-95 through five counties before they disabled it about 2:45 p.m. at Exit 158, near Potomac Mills.

Jerry Lee Saunders, 29, of Jasper, Fla., was taken into police custody and faces numerous charges. He was talking on the truck’s citizens band radio when troopers grabbed him, Caldwell said.

She did not know if Saunders was armed. The rig, an AirTrans Inc. tractor-trailer, was empty.

“He was very dangerous, out of control. [The tractor-trailer] was going about 80 miles per hour until it got into Northern Virginia,” Caldwell said. “Our main goal was to get the vehicle stopped before he hit Northern Virginia traffic and killed somebody.”

Police cleared northbound traffic off the interstate before two troopers began firing shots at the truck.

Police also laid “stingers” across the interstate at four locations during the chase, shredding four of the truck’s tires as it rolled over the spikes. About 10 motorists suffered flat tires after driving over the stingers, Caldwell said.

The 60-mile pursuit passed through Hanover, Caroline, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Prince William counties and involved police, sheriff’s deputies and troopers from several jurisdictions.

Portions of I-95 northbound were shut down in a “rolling roadblock” as the tractor-trailer raced through. In Woodbridge, on-ramps were blocked shortly before 3 p.m. and reopened in about half an hour.

Prince William police assisted in redirecting traffic but did not participate in the chase, said Sgt. Kim Chinn, Prince William police spokeswoman.

A victim of one of the hit-and-run accidents suffered minor injuries but no one else was reported hurt as a result of the chase, Caldwell said.

She did not have information Wednesday evening on Saunders’ state of mind or motives.

Charges including felony hit and run, unauthorized use of a vehicle and speeding to elude police were pending against Saunders on Wednesday evening. He is also wanted for parole violations in Florida, Caldwell said.

Staff writer Kate Bissell can be reached at (703) 878-8068.

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