Stolen leaf blowers lead to high speed chase in Evansville

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EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) Shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday, officers were initially called to the IGA store on Morgan Ave for a theft report. The reporter told police a white male in a teal shirt had brought two leaf blowers to the register. He then said he left his wallet in his vehicle and left the store with the leaf blowers and put them in the back seat of his vehicle before driving off without paying.

A separate witness told police the vehicle was a beat up gold Toyota Camry and two other males and one female were inside. Dispatch put out a BOL for the vehicle.

While heading to assist with a traffic stop on Lincoln, an officer was passed by a vehicle matching the BOL description. The officer followed the vehicle to the Marathon station on Lincoln, where he witnessed the car park next to the gas pumps on the opposite side of the gas door.

While waiting for back up, the officer ordered the driver, later identified as David Fruit, to place his hands on the steering wheel. According to an affidavit, that’s when a male in the backseat got out of the car and ignored commands to stay in the vehicle and instead took off toward southbound Norman Ave.

Fruit told the officer “I’m not going anywhere man” before taking off from the parking lot at a high rate of speed. The officer pursued Fruit, who was weaving around cars and running red lights. The pursuit was terminated for safety.

Just before 11 a.m. dispatch received reports of the suspect vehicle crashed into fire hydrant at Boeke and Cass. Police say a white male and a white female ran from the scene. Witnesses said the male was stripping clothes off. Police set up a parameter and requested a K-9.

Officers set up at Boeke and Pollack witnessed a vehicle approaching a stop sign at a high rate of speed and recognized the passenger as the same man from the Marathon station. The vehicle was pulled over in the area of Michael and Rheinhardt, and the driver was identified as Ryan Goldsberry.

Officers asked the passenger for an ID and he said he didn’t have one and told them his name was Alex. The passenger was handcuffed and read his Miranda rights before admitting he was David Fruit.

Goldsberry was also Mirandized and stated he did not know Fruit at all. He told police he was at his home on Taft when Fruit banged on his door asking for a ride. Goldsberry noted the police in the area and asked Fruit if they were for him and he said they were not. He was given his ID back and was released. He also told police Fruit ran to an abandoned house before getting in his truck.

Police went to the abandoned home, and the location was cleared. Officers then heard yelling from two houses down that someone was hiding in their back yard behind a trash can. The subject was ordered at gunpoint to show their hands, and a female, later identified as Kimberly Stone, emerged and was recognized from the earlier traffic stop. She was immediately placed in handcuffs and told police that a man she knew as “Ben” was in the back yard and armed with a handgun. She said he told her if she didn’t run he would kill her.

Police did not find anyone else in the back yard.

While officers were clearing the area, Fruit managed to escape the transport wagon by pulling the drivers side metal wall away from the body of the van and squeezing himself into the cab area.

Dispatch then began receiving calls about a potentially armed subject in the 1700 block of Parker attempting to break into homes. Fruit was located in the back yard of a home in the 1800 block of Fairlawn. Court documents show Fruit refused to listen to officer’s commands and reasonable force was required to place him into custody again.

Kimberly Stone was then Mirandized and questioned about her involvement. She told police she does not know the two men she was in the vehicle with and said they had decided to go to Ellis Park. She said they never went to Ellis Park, but did go to IGA where she witnessed Fruit go inside the store and come out with the two leaf blowers.

Stone also told police that Fruit threatened to shoot the unknown back seat passenger if he didn’t get out of the car to distract them and he drove off when the passenger wasn’t chased. Stone was released.

David Fruit was found to have extensive criminal history as well as outstanding warrants in Kentucky.

The two stolen leaf blowers were located and returned to IGA.

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(This story was originally published on November 29, 2020)

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