According to court documents and a press release, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deptuy pulled his cruiser behind a gold 2001 Chevrolet Malibu early on the morning of Thursday, August 2 and ran the tag. The vehicle’s tag showed that, John Paul Ikechukwy Owa, 28, of St. Petersburg was the registered owner and that he had a suspended driver’s license.
The deputy, driving a marked Chevrolet Tahoe, attempted to conduct a traffic stop in the area of 22nd Avenue South and 23rd Street South and activated all of his emergency equipment, according to a press release.
From there, the driver of the Malibu fled the scene heading west.
At this point, by radio, the deputy notified undercover Violent Crimes Task
Force (VCTF) officers who were in the area. The deputy also deactivated his emergency lights siren.
Due to strict pursuit policies in Pinellas County, the deputy did not follow with his patrol lights on due to the minor offense, said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri at a press conference located near the crash scene on the morning of August 2.
However, the deputy, the undercover VCTF officers in unmarked vehicles and one witness along the way were able to document what the driver was doing, he said.
First, the driver drove in circles at slow speeds in the Child’s Park neighborhood, said Gualtieri. While picking up speed in the residential area, deputies say the driver hit a curb and damaged one tire.
Next, the driver turned onto 49th Street South then headed northbound, accelerating recklessly to speeds approaching 70 mph while traveling on a road that is primarily marked as 35 mph, said Gualtieri. During this time, the driver ran red lights at the intersections of 1st Avenue South, Central Avenue and 1st Avenue North.
At the intersection of 49th Street North and 5th Avenue North, the Malibu ran a fourth red light at about 4:15 a.m. and T-boned a 2007 black Ford Mustang. Donald Young, 56, of South Pasadena was driving the Mustang eastbound on 5th Avenue North and had a green light.
At the crash scene, it was determined that Owa was driving the Malibu. A witness told deputies that Owa was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of 49th Street North when he ran the red traffic light at the intersection and struck the passenger side of Young’s vehicle.
Young was treated by EMS at the scene and was transported to Bayfront Medical Center where he died at 4:40 a.m., according to court records.
According to law enforcement, Owa was transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and was then taken to the Pinellas County Jail without incident.
Owa has been charged with vehicular homicide, driving with a suspended license causing injury or death, aggravated fleeing and eluding police, and possession of approximately one gram of marijuana. His bond is $70,150.
The investigation continues, according to the sheriff’s office.
The VCTF is a countywide, multi-jurisdictional task force that focuses on violent crime in Pinellas County. The task force is comprised of law enforcement officers from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg Police Department and the Clearwater Police Department.