The driver of the car who picked up the hitchhiker had stolen the car and was traveling south from Michigan, officials said. Later in the journey on Tuesday the hitchhiker got the fright of his life when the driver fled from a Daytona Beach police traffic stop, Volusia County sheriff’s deputies said.
Scott Rogers, 29, of Winter Park, told hitchhiker Joseph Stephens, 20, of Punta Gorda, that the car belonged to his aunt, so Stevens and his cats boarded the black Ford Focus and went along with Rogers to Florida, according to a sheriff’s report.
A Daytona Beach police sergeant spotted the car just afternoon Tuesday and ran the Michigan plates. The information returned was that the car was reported stolen out of Novi, Michigan, so the sergeant and pulled it over. His weapon drawn during the stop at Indigo Drive and West International Speedway Boulevard, the sergeant approached Rogers, who had “a unique hairstyle,” but Rogers sped away and got on Interstate 4 at speeds of up to 100 mph, a Daytona Beach police report states.
An alert was sent out to surrounding law enforcement agencies and a sheriff’s captain later spotted the black four-door eastbound on State Road 44. The captain followed it until backup deputies arrived and made a traffic stop on State Road 44 just west of Interstate 95.
That’s when deputies assisted by New Smyrna Beach police found a scared Stephens in the car, reports state.
Stephens said the ride was going as normal until Rogers fled Daytona Beach police. Stephens said he pleaded to Rogers to let him out but Rogers refused, deputies said.
The two cats were found in the car and were turned over to Volusia County Animal Services after deputies discovered Stephens was wanted in Charlotte County for missing court on misdemeanor theft charges. Stephens was then arrested.
Rogers told deputies he refused to let Stephens out of the car because they were so close to their destination, reports state.
Rogers who ranted about “suicide by cop” to deputies, said he was mentally unstable and that had been unable to get his prescription medication during his trip, deputies said.
He said his passenger may have helped the situation.
“If Joe wasn’t with me I would have made you guys shoot me,” investigators said Rogers told them.
Rogers was in the Volusia County Branch Jail on Wednesday on charges of grand theft, false imprisonment and fleeing and eluding. He was held on $42,500 bail. Stephens was being held Wednesday on $12,000 bail, records show.
The owner of the car, Alexander Demitry, said his car was stolen Friday. Rogers lived with Demitry for a month after friend of Demitry’s, who was also a friend of Rogers, asked Demitry to take in Rogers.
“I take it kind of personal you know,” Demitry said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He was here eating my food and drinking my beer and after I tell him it’s time to move on, I woke up and I find my car is gone.”