COLLIER COUNTY, Fla -- The Collier County Sheriff's Office has called off the search for three armed men they believe to be armed and dangerous, accused of stealing a vehicle and taking off on foot. Deputies searched the area south of I 75 for several by land and air, but have come up empty handed.
Throughout the day, deputies had a large perimeter set up south of I 75 in the Picayune Strand State Forest. The perimeter encompasses I-75 to the north, 52nd Avenue Southeast to the south, Miller Boulevard to the west and Everglades Boulevard to the east.
It all started with a routine traffic stop on Interstate 75 on Wednesday around 11:30. That stop turned into a large pursuit after three suspects stole a vehicle and then fled on foot in a remote area of Golden Gate Estates.
Deputies, assisted by area law enforcement agencies, continue to search a large section of the Estates known as the South Blocks, which is a remote area south of I-75, where the suspects, believed to be young adult males, were last seen by law enforcement.
Deputies gave this account of the events leading up to the search:
The suspects failed to comply with deputies attempting to perform a traffic stop on their black Ford Fusion on I-75 near the Collier Boulevard exit shortly after 11:30 a.m.
The suspects fled from the deputies, but abandoned their vehicle minutes later in front of the Cracker Barrel restaurant, 3845 Tollgate Blvd. The suspects then ran to a storage facility behind the restaurant where they carjacked a man, stealing his red Lincoln sport utility vehicle.
A second pursuit was initiated after a deputy saw a vehicle matching the description of the stolen SUV heading east on the interstate. The suspect vehicle left the interstate and entered a “construction only” exit. The vehicle then traveled south on Everglades Boulevard toward 52nd Avenue Southeast. The vehicle turned right on 52nd and headed toward Miller Boulevard. The vehicle turned right on Miller into an unknown area.
The vehicle was found abandoned in a wooded area near the intersection of 52nd and Miller Boulevard.
Deputies believe the suspects could be armed and dangerous based on evidence found inside the abandoned SUV.
CCSO air and K9 units are searching the perimeter area with assistance from the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Miccosukee Police Department and state Division of Forestry.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 239.252.9300, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward call Crime Stoppers at 1.800.780.TIPS (8477).