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A routine patrol by a Monticello Police Department (MPD) officer resulted in a chase within the city limits of Monticello that ultimately led to no arrests but instead uncovered a disturbing find in the trunk of the fleeing vehicle.
In a press release issued by the MPD, it is reported that Officer James Sauls was conducting a routine patrol near South Jefferson Street on Tuesday, Oct. 1, around 8:38 p.m.
During his patrol, Officer Sauls witnessed a vehicle traveling along South Jefferson Street with darkened or turned off headlights.
According to Florida Statute 316.217, every vehicle that is being operated on a roadway must use its headlights any time between sunset and sunrise (after dark).
As the vehicle was in violation of Florida law, Officer Sauls attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle and activated his emergency lights to indicate the beginning of the stop.
However, the driver of the vehicle began to speed away and flee from the officer, leading Officer Sauls to give chase.
After informing other officers of the in-progress pursuit, Officer Sauls continued to follow the vehicle down several city streets at a high rate of speed.
MPD's Lt. Jack Pitts joined in the pursuit and eventually managed to get behind the
vehicle, leading the fleeing vehicle to stop on Fourth Street. No sooner had the vehicle stopped then three subjects jumped out of the vehicle and ran into a wooded area.
While Lt. Pitts gave chase, he eventually lost sight of the three subjects due to the darkened wooded area; he was, however, able to obtain suspect descriptions and a perimeter was set up by other officers with the MPD as well as deputies from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
The K-9 tracking unit from the Jefferson Correctional Institution was requested, and later arrived to assist in the tracking of the three subjects.
Tracking teams were able to follow the trail of the fleeing subjects up until the area of the Martin Luther King Center (located at the end of East First Street) before the trail went cold.
When a search was conducted on the abandoned vehicle, law enforcement officers found a deceased alligator that had been stowed in the vehicle's trunk. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission was notified and arrived to take possession of the dead alligator.
In the State of Florida, alligators are protected by state law due to their former status as an endangered species. Killing an alligator without a state-issued trapping or farming license is a third-degree felony in Florida.
It is also a felony to capture an alligator or collect its eggs.
The three suspects, identified as black males wearing dark clothing, remain un-apprehended and the Monticello Police Department is asking anyone with information related to the case to contact the agency at (850) 342-0150.