A 37-year-old woman is jailed this afternoon after police say she asked an elderly man for a for a ride, but then took his truck and led police on a wild chase through Winter Haven.
Heather Johnson of Polk City is charged with grand theft auto, but additional charges are pending, according to Winter Haven police.
About 10:10 a.m. today, Johnson was at a Walgreens in Auburndale when she asked Thomas Stewart, 79, for a ride to a CVS, police said. Stewart complied, then she asked for a ride home.
Along the way, Johnson asked Stewart to stop at the boat ramp just off Highway 92 at Lake Pansy. When they got out of the truck, Johnson grabbed Stewart’s keys, and took off without him, police said. Stewart immediately called 911 and a police alert was issued for his 2010 GMC Sierra pickup.
An Auburndale officer spotted the vehicle near Charlotte Road where the truck traveled through a field on Lee Street and back onto Charlotte, before cutting through the baseball field of Auburndale High School toward Stadium Road, police said.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office helicopter arrived and reported the vehicle’s location to officers as Johnson drove onto Havendale Boulevard toward Winter Haven, according to police. This is when the front passenger tire blew out and the vehicle was riding on the wheel’s rim.
Officers on the ground lost sight of Johnson, but the helicopter spotted her as she headed eastbound on Havendale, police said. She crossed into the westbound lanes at 21st Street and continued the wrong way while sparks flew from the vehicle.
Johnson approached Spring Lake Plaza and crossed back into the eastbound lanes, and continued over Highway 17 onto Avenue T N.E., according to police.
Johnson finally tried driving through an open field near 8th Street N.W. and Avenue T N.E., but the front of the truck dug into the ground and officers converged on the vehicle, police said.
Johnson was treated for a cut to a hand at Winter Haven Hospital and then booked into the Polk County Jail.