PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Dash-cam video shows a trooper firing a sticky GPS device from his cruiser at a fleeing minivan in Pasco County early Thursday morning, the newest tool being used by troopers to track suspects.
- New Port Richey Police asked for FHP help with vehicle pursuit
- Trooper used "StarChase" system to track minivan in real time
- Driver Kip Thomas, 26, eventually stopped with stop sticks
The device helped track the minivan on the Suncoast Parkway, eventually leading to the capture of the driver.
According to an FHP report, New Port Richey Police were chasing a white minivan and requested help from the Florida Highway Patrol, because the driver was about to leave their jurisdiction.
Police said fleeing driver had committed felony aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
The trooper joined the pursuit at Hicks Road and State Road 52 at 12:29 a.m. in New Port Richey. The trooper said he saw the minivan initially traveling the wrong way on S.R. 52 before traveling back into the eastbound lanes.
The trooper said that because there were other law enforcement vehicles near his cruiser, it wasn’t safe to attempt a "P.I.T." maneuver, which attempts to stop a vehicle by creating a controlled crash.
Instead, the trooper deployed the "StarChase" system, in which a GPS device is fired at a vehicle, which sticks to it.
In the Thursday morning incident, the StarChase device stuck to the minivan near its license plate.
“I got the vehicle with StarChase,” the trooper can be heard saying on the radio. “I got the mapping program up on my end. So, I can see real-time where he’s going.”
The StarChase device was deployed just in time, because the minivan turned onto a southbound exit ramp and began driving north, the wrong way, on the Suncoast Parkway. At that point, New Port Richey Police and Pasco Sheriff’s Office units disengaged from the pursuit.
By that time, additional troopers had arrived, and they began driving the correct way on the Suncoast Parkway to parallel the fleeing minivan. The driver of the minivan was traveling at about 60 mph, which allowed the first trooper to speed ahead and try to deploy stop sticks.
The video shows the trooper has less than 15 seconds from the time he parks his cruiser to put the stop sticks on the highway in the minivan’s path. The trooper managed to quickly get the stop sticks down, which then punctured the right front tire of the minivan.
“I got him with the stop sticks,” the trooper radioes.
The minivan traveled for another four miles before pulling off onto the road's grassy shoulder, and the driver runs away from the vehicle on foot. A K-9 officer eventually finds the driver, Kip Thomas, 26, hiding on a Spring Hill property.
Thomas was arrested on multiple charges, including aggravated flee to elude, driving on a suspended or revoked license, driving on the wrong side of a divided highway, DUI, armed burglary, and possession of methamphetamine.
FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins said the StarChase system is not new, but the FHP just recently began using it.