A homeless Key West man faces two felonies and four misdemeanors after allegedly stealing a pickup truck -- which the owner reported stolen after seeing it pass him on U.S. 1 Thursday.
The owner of the white 2009 Dodge Ram 3500, which had Kansas tags, reportedly parked his truck at mile marker 39 and went for a walk (he put his keys in the gas-cap cover). As he walked along a path, he saw the truck heading south on U.S. 1, walked back to where he's staying at the Sunshine Key RV Resort and Marina on Ohio Key and called the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
The truck and the suspect, Chad Watson, 40, were found in Key West following a crash.
According to a report from Key West police officer Randall Whartle, two U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents were traveling north on South Roosevelt Boulevard at Flagler Avenue around noon. The agents saw a white truck doing a U-turn north of the light from Flagler.
A nearby maroon vehicle was stopped where the truck did a U-turn. The passenger and driver were outside the car and waved at the agents and pointed at the white truck, leading the agents to believe the truck was involved.
The agents drove behind the truck but Watson reportedly refused to stop and led the pair on a chase on South Roosevelt. Watson stopped when he got stuck in traffic at the U.S. 1 intersection, Hartle wrote.
One of the agents got out and banged on the passenger window, telling Watson, "Stop! Police!"
The report says Watson sped onto U.S. 1 while the agent was still banging on the window. The agents followed Watson over the Cow Key Bridge and into the Hurricane Hole Restaurant, Bar and Marina parking lot on Stock Island.
The agents and crash victims, Dave and Sharon Kowaluk, who apparently also followed, confronted Watson. Dave Kowaluk told the agents he got out of his car after Watson hit his vehicle.
Watson, according to the report, immediately put the truck in reverse and drove away. Dave Kowaluk said Watson almost caused another crash while doing that.
Watson denied driving the truck, Hartle wrote, but did admit he had drunk a lot of Jack Daniels. He told law officers he had been in the parking lot and that the truck was not his.
His misdemeanor charges are drunk driving, damaging property and leaving the scene of a crash involving property damage. His felonies are fleeing and eluding law enforcement officers and grand theft auto.
As of Friday, Watson remained in Key West jail with no bond allowed. He has a 9 a.m. March 3 court date in front of Monroe County Judge Peary Fowler.