BARTOW — At around 10:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 22, PCSO deputies located a stolen vehicle at the Shell gas station (2225 Combee Road South) in unincorporated Lakeland. The vehicle was a silver 2009 Ford F150 reported stolen from Okeechobee County.

The driver, later determined to be 50-year-old Tracy Mercer of Avon Park, was asleep behind the wheel. As deputies attempted to make contact with Mercer, he woke up and fled southbound on Combee Road South before turning North on to U.S. 98 South.

Deputies followed the stolen vehicle at a distance.

Mercer fled the area, turning westbound on Holloway Park Drive where he drove the stolen truck through a chain link fence dragging pieces of the fence behind the truck. Mercer then stuck a barbed wire fence where livestock was held as well as a second chain link fence and gate. Deputies activated their emergency lights and attempted to stop the stolen vehicle.

Mercer then turned southbound on Marion Drive heading back to U.S. 98 South, where he continued to flee from deputies and committed two hit and run crashes when the fence pieces he was dragging struck two vehicles.

As Mercer approached Hancock Avenue Southeast in Highland City on U.S. 98, deputies attempted to stop the stolen truck by using stop sticks that successfully punctured and deflated the front passenger side tire. Mercer did not stop, and continued toward Bartow where he struck another vehicle at the intersection of U.S. 98 and County Road 540A.

The Bartow Police Department assisted deputies by blocking traffic at the intersection of U.S. 98 and State Road 60 causing Mercer to continue along U.S. 98 and onto Broadway Avenue. As he approached Clower Street, a deputy engaged the stolen vehicle in a PIT (precision immobilization technique) maneuver, successfully stopping Mercer.

No one was injured during this incident.

When deputies apprehended Mercer, he was allegedly smoking methamphetamine in a pipe and still had his foot pressed on the accelerator causing the tires to spin. Mercer was taken into custody, arrested and transported to the Polk County Jail.

“This career felon’s criminal history speaks for itself. He is a menace to society and obviously has no regard for the public’s safety. We will do everything we can to hold this man accountable for his actions and send him back to prison, away from society, where he belongs,” said Grady Judd, Polk County sheriff.

The following was located during a search of the vehicle: over 31 grams of methamphetamine, a stolen license plate, A shotgun, 13 rounds of 12 gauge shotgun ammunition, 43 rounds of 40 caliber ammunition and drug paraphernalia.

Mercer was transported to the Polk County Jail and charged with: leaving the scene of a crash (M2) (3 counts); knowingly driving with a suspended license (M1); DUO with property damage (M1) (3 counts); DUI (M1); fleeing to elude (F2); criminal mischief (F3); possession of ammunition by a convicted felon (F2); possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (F2); petit theft (M1); possession of drug paraphernalia (M1); damaging fence containing animals (F3); tampering with evidence (F3); grand theft auto (F3); armed trafficking in methamphetamine (FL).

Mercer had a warrant for violation of state probation, as well as a warrant for Highlands County for charges of conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamines, fleeing to elude, three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, and harassing a police dog. He is currently being held without a bond.

Mercer’s criminal history includes four prison incarcerations, 53 felonies and 24 misdemeanors.

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