An alleged car-jacker who stole a U.S. Post Office mail truck in Volusia County was stopped in Flagler late this afternoon, but only after allegedly attempting to run over two Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies in the very same stretch of I-95 and in the way that a car thief 16 years ago killed a Flagler sheriff’s deputy as the deputy was attempting to deploy stop sticks.
The two deputies today escaped unharmed, though the incident recalled the words of the state prosecutor at the sentencing of the deputy’s assailant 15 years ago in a Flagler courtroom: “There is very little in our society that is more dangerous than these high-speed chases,” then-Assistant State Attorney Steve Nelson had said at the time.
The incident today involved Jesse Estep, a 29-year-old resident of 808 4th Street in Bunnell–at least as of his previous arrest in March–who has a long history of arrests, and of alleged vehicle thefts, in Flagler and Volusia counties.
Seven years ago he was arrested in Flagler for grand theft auto, battery and other charges, all of which were dropped. In January he was arrested in Flagler on an out-of-county warrant tying him back to Volusia, where he’s been arrested nine times in nine years, numerous times facing charges involving resisting arrest, assaulting a law enforcement officer and burglaries.
Estep was arrested again in Flagler today after allegedly twice trying to run over Flagler County sheriff’s deputies with a U.S. Post Office mail truck he’d allegedly car-jacked in Volusia and driven up to Flagler, on I-95, where he crashed it after attempting to assault the deputies with it.
It was the second time in 24 hours that a vehicle theft initiated in Volusia ended with arrests in Flagler.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office received an alert from Volusia County around 4:30 p.m. today that a carjacking suspect was entering Flagler on I-95 northbound in the stolen mail truck. Deputies spotted the truck and initiated a pursuit, according to a release the sheriff’s office issued this evening. Deputies got out of their vehicles to drop stop sticks to slow the vehicle as it was driving recklessly and not stopping for marked law enforcement patrol vehicles.
The deputies were on the side of I-95 when Estep allegedly intentionally swerved and drove the mail truck directly toward one of them. He missed, swerved toward the other side of the road in an attempt to intentionally strike a different deputy trying to deploy stop sticks, then lost control of the truck as a back tire struck one of the stop sticks.
Estep overcorrected, crashed the truck against a guard rail at mile marker 280, then flipped the truck and ended up off the shoulder in the grass.
The eerily similar situation in July 2003 ended with the death of Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy Chuck Sease. Sease was deploying stop sticks to stop Bruce Harold Grove as Grove drove what at the time was thought to be a stolen car into Sease at 70 mph at the State Road 100 interchange with I-95. In 2004, a jury found Grove guilty of second-degree murder. A judge set that verdict aside, agreeing with defense counsel that evidence did not support a second-degree murder conviction, but sentenced Grove to 35 years in prison on a slew of other charges, including grand theft. He’s not due to be released until 2033.
The interchange was renamed in Sease’s honor. He is the last Flagler deputy to die directly in the line of duty, as the result of an assailant’s actions.
After Estep flipped the truck, Volusia and Flagler County deputies arrested him and took him to AdventHealth Palm Coast for a medical evaluation.
“This is another great example of our agencies working together,” said Sheriff Rick Staly. “The suspect immediately told deputies that he was high on meth and cocaine. It is a miracle that no deputies, police officers, or other travelers on the roadway were hurt during the reckless driving of this suspect. I’m especially grateful that his efforts to injure my deputies failed.”
Estep faces charges of Grand Theft Auto, Aggravated Fleeing and Eluding, and two counts Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer just in Flagler. He faces additional charges in Volusia County, and may face federal charges because of his theft of federal property. The Postal Service took back possession of the truck. It is not clear what, if anything, was in the truck, or whether there was damage to anything the truck was carrying for delivery.