A man who took a Mustang from a south Georgia dealership showroom at gunpoint is believed to have fatally shot himself after the car ran out of gas in Folkston, authorities said.
Ryan Allen Blankenship, 21, of Blackshear, entered the showroom at Robbie Roberson Ford in Waycross about 4:40 p.m. Monday where he stood near the front of a car, Ware County Sheriff Randy Royal said.
A salesman who responded to what he believed was a customer’s request for help instead saw that the man was holding a semi-automatic pistol at waist level, Royal said.
After the salesman followed Blankenship’s orders to open the showroom’s double doors and to not say anything, Blankenship got inside a 2012 Mustang Boss 302 and drove it quickly through the doors.
“There were several people in the showroom including children,” Royal said.
Blankenship made it outside hitting only a chair and a table in the showroom and sped away.
The car headed north on U.S. 1, which runs in front of the dealership, and officers from the Sheriff’s Office, Georgia State Patrol and Waycross Police Department set up strategically to intercept the vehicle.
Ten minutes later, however, a Georgia Forestry Service arson investigator called to report the car, which was red with a white top, had sped past him southbound on U.S. 1 south of Waycross at an estimated 100 mph, Royal said.
“He had doubled back,” Royal said.
Alerted that the car was coming toward Folkston at a high rate of speed, Charlton County deputies tried to deploy stop sticks but couldn’t because of heavy traffic.
Using detection devices, the deputies said the car was going 130 mph at some point.
As the driver crossed a railroad overpass in Folkston, the car ran out of gas about 5:40 p.m., and the driver pulled the car over and ran, Royal said.
He fled across railroad tracks and jumped into a ditch on the west side where Cpl. Michael Ray of the Ware County Sheriff’s Office and Trooper Ray Strickland, who pursued him, saw Blankenship raise his head a couple of times, Royal said.
Officers heard a shot and made their way forward to find Blankenship dead, Royal said.
“All indications are it was self-inflicted,” said Mike McDaniel, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Kingsland office, and the body was sent to a GBI crime lab for an autopsy.
Blankenship, who had been in the Navy, was recognized as having been in the dealership a couple of weeks earlier and had spoken to a salesman other than the one robbed, Royal said.
The motorcycle Blankenship rode to the dealership has been returned to his family, he said.