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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Deputy-launched GPS tracker helps nab fleeing drug suspect

Willie Ray Pena Feliciano
Willie Ray Pena Feliciano

A Leesburg man was arrested on drug charges after a brief car chase that ended when a Lake County sheriff’s deputy launched a GPS tracker that attached to the vehicle.

The deputy was traveling south on U.S. Highway 441 near Marion Street on when a gray 2010 Mazda headed the same direction passed him in the far-right lane. The deputy estimated the vehicle was traveling about 55 mph in a 35-mph zone, according to the sheriff’s office report.

The deputy started following the vehicle, which accelerated to about 80 mph. The deputy activated his emergency lights to conduct a traffic stop near Mills Street. The vehicle stopped in the middle of the road, and as the deputy got out of the patrol car, the driver started driving slowly away, the report said.

The deputy then deployed StarChase, which is a battery-operated GPS tracker fired by compressed air from the patrol car. When the tracker struck and connected to the vehicle, its driver stopped and started yelling out the window, according to the report.

The driver was identified as 37-year-old Willie Ray Pena-Feliciano, of 35029 Sweet Leaf Lane. Pena-Feliciano told the deputy he just got off work and wanted to get home. The deputy asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle and asked whether he could search it. Pena-Feliciano said there was nothing illegal but would not give permission to search the vehicle, the report said.

A K9 unit arrived at the scene and the dog picked up the smell of narcotics near the rear driver-side door. Pena-Feliciano agreed to be searched and the deputy found a clear plastic bag in his front-left pocket that contained a crystal-like substance that later tested positive for methamphetamine.  After being detained, Pena-Feliciano freely stated there was a pipe in the console, which the deputy found, according to the report.

Pena-Feliciano was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was taken to the Lake County Jail, where he was released Wednesday on $3,000 bond. Pena-Feliciano is scheduled to appear in Lake County Court on Jan. 3.

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