PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.- Charlotte County Sheriff's deputies arrested 29-year-old Andrew Garza of Tampa after they say he led them on a chase Friday afternoon.
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper attempted to pull Garza over on Kings Hwy. for not wearing a seat belt, but the man allegedly sped off, nearly hitting several vehicles, before driving into a muddy field and fleeing on foot.
The white Ford Ranger he had been driving crashed through woods and shrubbery to get to the swamp-like field. The trooper parked and called for CCSO as back up before approaching.
When he made it to the truck, he saw that that driver's side door was open, and that a loaded, silver and black firearm was wedged in the handle.
The driver had fled the scene.
Officers discovered that the vehicle had been reported stolen out of Sarasota County on May 25. A BOLO was issued and soon, a man matching the driver's description was located at the Walmart on Kings Hwy., just south of the vehicle's location.
According to Walmart's Loss Prevention, the suspect was seen entering the store muddy and wet, selecting clothes, purchasing them and then changing in the men's room. His old clothes were located in the men's room trash can.
The trooper arrived on the scene and confirmed his identity. Garza was taken into custody.
He allegedly denied driving the vehicle, but said he could "help out" in identifying other subjects involved in drug activity in exchange for not arresting him.
Following his interview, Garza was arrested, and faces charges of fleeing to elude LEO, grand theft, leaving the scene of a crash, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.