Teens arrested in 'violent' armed robbery, high-speed wrong-way chase on I-75

Sumter deputies crime part of gang initiation

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

Sumter County deputies say four teens have been arrested and one adult is on the run after a crime spree Friday that involved two carjackings, an armed robbery and a high-speed chase going the wrong way on Interstate 75. 

"In Sumter County, we aren't used to that level of violence," Sumter County Sheriff's Office Capt. John Galvin said. 

The Sumter County Sheriff's Office released surveillance video of the armed robbery at the Mobile Gas Station at near I-75 near State Road 44 around 11:55 p.m. Friday. 

In the video, three men armed with guns rush in and force customers to the ground at gunpoint while also beating and pistol-whipping the cashier. 

"They put all the customers on the floor, they robbed them of their cell phones and purses," Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer said. "The clerk, he's reaching down for, we believe, a firearm, but they pistol whip him and they take the cash and tobacco products." 

Detectives said three teens went inside, while a fourth teen was the get-a-way driver of a black Cadillac waiting outside. All of the teens range in age of 14-16 years old, according to arrest report. However, deputies say that wasn't the only car involved in the armed robbery. 

Outside, there was also a red Hyundai with an adult inside, observing the teens during the robbery. 

"We have reason to believe that the one in the red car observing could have been, we don't know for sure, but could have been a gang member observing these juveniles pulling this robbery off as an initiation into gang activity," Farmer said. 

Both cars took off and Deputy Rashad Chavis quickly followed until both cars purposely went south in the northbound lanes of I-75. 

Dispatch recording released in Tuesday's afternoon news conference showed speeds went up to 111 mph. 

"My heart was racing," Chavis said. 

Chavis went on the southbound lanes and from across the median followed and watched as both cars dodged oncoming traffic. It was during the chase that he told dispatch the license plate numbers of both cars. The dispatch recordings show both cars were reported stolen. 

"That vehicle is coming back signal-10 out of Orange County in reference to a carjacking three black males, three handguns used," the dispatcher said over the radio. 

According to the Sheriff's Office, both the black Cadillac and the red Hyundai were stolen in carjackings in Orange County and Leesburg last week. The adult driver in the red Hyundai crashed and got away, taking off on foot. 

"He's the only one that we had not apprehended," Farmer said. 

As for the four teens involved in the robbery in the black Cadillac, the tire blew and they all took off in a rural area behind Winn-Dixie. However, deputies set up a perimeter and arrested all four by the next morning. 

"We apprehended one in the back of a pickup truck and the next morning, we apprehended three of them in front of the Winn-Dixie," Farmer said. 

The four teens arrested were Christopher Jones, 16, Peter Christian, 15, Joshua Fluellen, 14, Vontavious Thomas, 15. 

They all have been charged with several felony counts including unlawful possession of a weapon under the age of 18, fleeing and eluding police at a high rate of speed and robbery with a firearm. 

Officials from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said they expect to file more charges against the boys in connection with a recent crime spree.

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