Originally created 07/24/02

Man crashes into trees



North Augusta police say it took five officers to restrain a shoplifting suspect who stole a patrol car early Tuesday and wrecked it into two Palmetto trees on Georgia Avenue.

Even the blows of a metal baton on his legs had no effect, said Detective Tim Thornton of the North Augusta Department of Public Safety. Pepper spray eventually subdued the man, who admitted later that he had been smoking crack cocaine before an officer tried to arrest him, police said.

Gerald Eugene Ford, 36, of the 1000 block of Greene Street, Augusta, was charged with two felonies and five misdemeanors after the episode, which required the help of nearly every officer who was working the overnight shift.

"This guy was strong," Detective Thornton said of Mr. Ford, who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 240 pounds. "He was just tough to bring down."

Police say a man walked into Circle K on Georgia Avenue about 11 p.m. Monday, grabbed a case of beer and walked out. Officer Kevin L. Wren was investigating the theft after midnight when he found Mr. Ford a short distance away drinking beer, according to a police report.

The man initially cooperated when Officer Wren tried to handcuff him, police said. But after one of his hands was cuffed, police say he swung around and struck the officer in the chest and took off in the patrol car.

The car crashed into two Palmetto trees on Georgia Avenue, bending one of them over, Detective Thornton said. After the wreck, officer surrounded the car, but police say the driver refused to get out.

Officers shattered the driver's-side window and pulled out Mr. Ford, who still had a set of handcuffs hanging from his wrist. He continued fighting officers until pepper spray was used, police said.

A police report states that officers suffered minor injuries during the arrest. The patrol vehicle, a Ford Crown Victoria, sustained major damage and will likely be totaled, Detective Thornton said.

Mr. Ford was charged with felony counts of resisting arrest and larceny of a motor vehicle and misdemeanor counts of shoplifting, public drunkenness, public consumption of alcohol, reckless driving and destruction of city property.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.