PALM CITY, Fla. — Two unemployed men parked in a Ford Thunderbird late Tuesday night were looking for prey to rob at gunpoint, according to sheriff' reports.
They pulled out along South Murphy Road when a lone state corrections officer passed by on his motorcycle, heading home from Port St. Lucie at 11:21 p.m. Tuesday.
At first, the uniformed officer thought he just heard 10 pops that sounded like a vehicle backfiring, but soon realized the pops were gunfire and the sparks and dirt kicking up around him were from bullets.
He sped up and eluded the car — and injury — and called 911, leading to a high-speed law enforcement chase that ended with the men crashing into a ditch east of High Meadows Avenue and fleeing into a woods.
Deputies caught Pedro Tingling, 21, of West Palm Beach, and Samuel Stephens, 23, of Lantana, after a motorist reported seeing them at 1:46 a.m. Wednesday run across Interstate 95.
During interviews, investigators quoted Tingling as saying, "officer you know the only reason ya'll caught me was because I saw the dog van, cause (otherwise) I would have run all the way back to Palm Beach."
Stephens is accused of pulling the trigger on a 9 mm handgun found in the trunk of the red Thunderbird that Tingling acknowledged they were in. Deputies also found a .38-caliber pistol.
Initially Tingling told investigators he sped away from a sheriff's deputy because he was scared.
But when told that bullet shells and tire marks placed them at the scene of the attempted robbery, he said his companion came up with the idea of driving to Martin County to rob someone.
Stephens was held Wednesday without bail at the Martin County Jail on a charge of attempted second murder and resisting an officer without violence.
Tingling on Wednesday was under a $45,000 bail on charges of armed robbery, fleeing and eluding law enforcement and resisting an officer without violence.
After the correctional officer called 911, a deputy spotted the Thunderbird on Citrus Avenue and turned on his cruiser's blue lights and siren to initiate a traffic stop. The Thunderbird took off, running a stop light and going east onto Martin Highway at speeds up to 90 mph, reports show.
The vehicle ran into a ditch when it turned onto High Meadows Avenue. A deputy saw the passenger get out and run though a 7-Eleven parking lot at the corner of the avenue and Martin Highway.
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