THOMASVILLE — A Florida man who had been the subject of a Thomas County Sheriff's Office pursuit died early Monday morning when the vehicle he was driving crashed into a tree on Ga. 3.
Emilio Gutierrez, 38, of Lake Worth, Florida, was traveling south on Ga. 3 at 3 a.m. when the Nissan Armada he as driving left the road and struck a tree, according to authorities. The driver was ejected and pronounced dead at the scene by the coroner, said Thomasville Post 12 Georgia State Patrol Trooper First Class Tyler Edgar.
"He was fleeing and lost control," Edgar said.
Prior to the crash, a sheriff's office deputy was checking a business at Ga. 3 and Dollar Store Road.
The officer saw a Nissan Armada with a South Carolina license plate and a man next to a gasoline pump, said Capt. Steven Jones, sheriff's office public information officer.
"He (Gutierrez) was trying to pry open the credit card area of the gas pump," Jones said.
The man saw the deputy and got into the Nissan and headed south on Ga. 3, Jones said.
"The deputy turned on his blue lights and siren and tried to get the vehicle to stop," he added. "When the pursuit reached triple digits in speed, the driver began to turn headlights off and on."
With speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, the deputy backed off, Jones said, and the Armada continued south on Ga. 3.
The deputy found the wrecked vehicle in a stand of trees. The driver lost control of the car on a sharp curve.
The deputy who had been in pursuit and another deputy returned to the store and found tools and a cell phone.
"It appeared he was trying to place a skimmer on the credit card area of the pumps," Jones said.
The sheriff's office Criminal Investigation Division is investigating Gutierrez's activities prior to fatal crash.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820