Fleeing suspect’s vehicle strikes deputy after chase begins at Weirsdale mini-mart

Joe Allen Toolie III

A Marion County sheriff’s deputy escaped injury early Sunday morning when he was struck by a car after questioning a man who had been sitting in the vehicle outside a Weirsdale mini-mart.

The incident started Sunday when Dep. Christopher Witte made contact with a man later identified as 24-year-old Joe Allen Toolie III in the parking lot of the Circle K located at 13873 SE Highway 25, at the intersection with County Road 42. Witte was told by a store clerk that Toolie had been parked in front of the store for 30-45 minutes “and appeared to be unresponsive,” a sheriff’s office report states.

During the encounter, Toolie put his vehicle in reverse and fled from the mini-mart parking, striking Witte and “almost running him over,” the report says, adding that Witte initiated a pursuit that quickly led into Lake County.

During the pursuit, Toolie turned his vehicle’s lights off while reaching high speeds, causing Witte to lose sight of him. But Lake County sheriff’s deputies spotted the vehicle, attempted to conduct a traffic stop and initiated another pursuit, the report says.

Toolie eventually abandoned his vehicle and fled on foot. A short time later, a Lake County sheriff’s K-9 tracked him to his house, located at 215 Bisby Street in Leesburg. After Witte positively identified Toolie as the suspect, deputies entered the residence and brought him into custody.

To see the video of the incident taken from Witte’s body camera, go to:

After denying the incident with Witte took place on camera, Toolie was booked into the Lake County Jail at 6:13 a.m. He was charged with aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, felony fleeing and eluding, giving a false name to a law enforcement officer, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of heroin with intent to sell and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. He also was charged with violating his probation on four other drug charges and is scheduled to appear in a Lake County courtroom on Nov. 13 at 8:30 a.m.

Toolie, who has been housed in the Lake County Jail six times since February 2013, was being held on $45,500 bond for the new charges and no bond on the probation violations.