Businessman Jay Weinberger dead after police chase

Augusta businessman Jay Weinberger died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a police chase early this morning, the Putnam County sheriff said.

Sheriff Howard Sills, who described the incident as “bizarre,” 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. He said the deputy turned on his blue lights but that Mr. Weinberger drove on 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.

The sheriff said the trailer, which he described as a concession trailer, was stolen.

Sheriff Sills said 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., Sheriff Sills said, and was titled to the owner of that business.

“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 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 Furniture warehouse on Reynolds Industrial Drive this 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 today that the sheriff’s office assisted with the investigation, but he said he could not comment on the details of the case.

“We’re referring everything to Putnam County,” he said.

Mr. Weinberger was active in the Augusta Jewish Community Center, which is on Weinberger Way in Columbia County.

“He was a wonderful person,” said Leah Ronen, executive director of the community center and the Augusta Jewish Federation. “He was very kind.”

Ms. Ronen said Mr. Weinberger raised money to help Jews in the area, in Israel and worldwide.

“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.

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