Stephen Morel is a 36-year-old resident of Old Tyme Avenue in St. Augustine. Last Friday, he and a friend went to Ormond Beach drove in his friend’s Buick to pick up an old tag for the car. Driving back north, the car was overheating, so the driver exited the Interstate and drove to the RaceTrac on State Road 100 in Palm Coast.
According to a Flagler County Sheriff’s report, Morel quickly got upset, telling the driver to get back on the Interstate or get out and “give up the car.” The driver would not do so. Morel allegedly tried to shove him out, and when that did not work, he walked around to the driver’s side “and forcefully removed [the driver] from the driver’s seat,” according to the report. Morel got back in the car and drove north.
Deputies located Morel driving north just over the Flagler-St. Johns County line and pulled him over, ordering him out of the car through law enforcement refers to as a “high-risk traffic stop.” The Sheriff’s Office released portions of video of the stop, showing Moral complying with commands, walking backward toward a deputy, his hands up. St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies conducted the actual arrest since Morel was in their county.
The alleged offense qualifies as a carjacking under Florida law, which defines a carjacking as stealing a person’s vehicle with “the use of force, violence, assault, or putting in fear.” The offense is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. It would be a first-degree felony punishable by life if the carjacker were to use a weapon.
“This guy thinks he can assault his ‘friend’ and steal his car and flee,” Sheriff Rick Staly said, thanking the neighboring sheriff’s office for the assistance–and reminding lawbreakers of neighboring agencies’ cooperating in apprehending them. Morel was being held at the St. Johns County jail on $15,000 jail, pending his transfer to the Flagler jail.