Augusta businessman Jay Weinberger died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a police chase early Saturday morning, the Putnam County sheriff said.
Mr. Weinberger, 47, was towing a trailer with an expired tag when a deputy began pursuing him between 4 and 4:30 a.m. on Harmony Road in north Putnam County, said Sheriff Howard Sills.
He said the deputy turned on his blue lights, but Mr. Weinberger drove for about three miles before stopping. When the deputy approached, the sheriff said, Mr. Weinberger took off at a high rate of speed. After a short distance, the vehicle left the road. The deputy found Mr. Weinberger dead of a single gunshot wound.
"This is really bizarre," Sheriff Sills said.
The sheriff said the trailer, which he described as a concession trailer, was stolen.
A lock to the trailer and a bolt cutter were found in Mr. Weinberger's vehicle. The trailer had been parked behind the Floor Source in Eatonton, Ga., and was titled to the owner of that business, Sheriff Sills said.
"The owner said he did not know Mr. Weinberger, and he did not give anyone the consent to move the trailer," which he said was worth more than $7,000.
"We have recovered at least one more stolen trailer at his warehouse in Augusta," Sheriff Sills said.
The Weinberger family owns Weinberger's Furniture and Mattress Showcase, with stores on Washington Road and in Greensboro, Ga.
Richmond County sheriff's deputies impounded two trailers in the parking lot of the Weinberger's Furniture warehouse on Reynolds Industrial Drive on Saturday afternoon. Sheriff Sills confirmed that one of those trailers was stolen from a Putnam County business in July.
"Those types of trailers are the highest theft items in the state of Georgia," he said. "I know it seems strange, but this kind of theft is as common as the rain."
Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles said Saturday that the sheriff's office assisted with the investigation, but he said he could not comment.
"We're referring everything to Putnam County," he said.
Mr. Weinberger was active in the Augusta Jewish Community Center, said Leah Ronen, executive director of the community center and the Augusta Jewish Federation. He owned a home in the Barrington subdivision off Stevens Creek Road in Martinez and lived there with his wife, Pam, and two children, Saul and Hannah, Ms. Ronen said.
"He was a strong supporter of the center and the Augusta Jewish Federation," she said.
Don Bailey, president of The Augusta Chronicle and former chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, also praised Mr. Weinberger.
"Jay was very well respected in the business community. He'll be missed," he said.
Columbia County Bureau reporter Jenna Martin contributed to this story.
Reach Bill Norton or Stephanie Toone at (706) 724-0851.
FAMILY: Wife, Pam; Son, Saul; Daughter, Hannah
PROFESSION: Co-owner of Weinberger Furniture and Mattress Showcase
EDUCATION: 1980 Evans High School graduate, 1984 University of Georgia graduate