Paraplegic takes off with car, leads officers on three-county chase
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 8:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 8:04 p.m.
A paraplegic man traded his wheelchair for another set of wheels Wednesday when police said he stole a car from an Ocala dealership and drove north to Bradford County, where he was arrested by officials there for a driving infraction, according to authorities.
Ocala Police Department Officers Jeff Hall and Jared Forsyth said Shamal Battice went to Ford of Ocala located off N. U.S. 441 wanting to purchase a vehicle.
A salesman showed Battice around when Battice decided to look at a white 2009 Pontiac G6.
The salesman assisted Battice in getting into the car and once he did, Battice, the officers said, locked the door, put the key in the ignition and using a folding cane, placed it on the gas pedal and drove off the parking lot.
Police were notified about the incident, and the Marion County Sheriff's Office was also called. Deputies pursued the car and abandoned the chase at the Alachua-Marion County line.
Alachua County officials then picked up the chase and followed Battice until they too decided not to follow any further.
Officers said a bulletin was issued and Bradford County sheriff's deputies spotted Battice at a gas station trying to put gas in the car and arrested him. He was charged with driving while license is suspended or revoked.
Battice faces a possible charge of grand theft auto from law enforcement officials.
The salesman who showed Battice the car, Anselmo “Chico” Barreto, said in an interview with the Star-Banner that he didn't see the harm in letting Battice look at a car because he has sold cars to people with Battice's condition.
Barreto said when Battice saw the car, he said he wanted to feel the seats, so he let him touch them. Then, he said he wanted to see how the car felt, so he let him go inside. Then, when Battice locked the doors, unfolded the cane and drove off, he said he was surprised.
“It was unbelievable, only in the movies,” said Barreto, who has worked for the dealership for 11 years.
Within the last few years, the dealership has had its fair share of bad luck.
Three years ago, six vehicles were destroyed by fire when a 2002 Ford Escape was brought in after the owner received a recall notice relating to a fire hazard.
Then in November 2013, two new trucks – a F250 Ford with a super duty crew cab, worth $62,990, and a 2014 Ford F350 super duty Lariat, valued at $60,105 – were reported stolen from the dealership.
On Monday night, Annas Abdel-Khaliq was arrested by sheriff's deputies after he was found belted in a $48,875 blue 2012 Chevrolet Corvette, fumbling with the manual gear shift.
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