Crime

What started as a test drive in Gulfport ended in a wreck and an arrest, police say

Jeremy Peterson is taken into custody by Harrison County deputies after Peterson allegedly stole an orange Dodge Challenger during a test drive in Gulfport.
Jeremy Peterson is taken into custody by Harrison County deputies after Peterson allegedly stole an orange Dodge Challenger during a test drive in Gulfport.

A man accused of stealing an orange Dodge Challenger during a test drive was arrested after he crashed into a mail box on Firetower Road near Pass Christian, a Gulfport police spokesman said.

Joshua Dale Vandiver, 37, of Iuka, was taken into custody about 17 miles from where police say he abandoned the owner of an auto sales shop at a McDonald’s and drove off.

Harrison County sheriff’s deputies held Vandiver for Gulfport police, who arrested him on a charge of taking possession of a motor vehicle.

Gulfport Police Sgt. Joshua Bromen identified Vandiver as the suspect later Monday.

Kirk Merritt, owner of Kirk’s Auto Sales on East Pass Road, said Vandiver had spoken to his wife earlier Monday about test-driving a car.

“He said he wanted to buy a car today, but he had lost his license at the casino,” Merritt said.

The car is a 2009 RT model with 40,000 miles on it and it’s valued at $18,500, he said.

Merritt said Vandiver was trying out the car about 11 a.m. Monday when Merritt suggested they change seats at the McDonald’s on Cowan Road. Merritt planned to drive the car back to his business.

“Both car doors were open and I got out and I heard him release the brake and ditch the clutch and he took off,” Merritt said. “I ran after him and tried to stop him.”

Merritt said he ran in McDonald’s, yelling for them to call 911.

“They handed me a phone so I could make the call myself,” he said.

Police and deputies both began receiving calls about an orange Dodge Challenger being driven dangerously at speeds of up to 100 mph. The car headed north on Mississippi 605 and turned up on Firetower Road near Pass Christian.

“I thought he was a little off,” Merritt said, “but what he did caught me by surprise.”

A woman reported the car nearly struck her vehicle on Wolf River Road.

Deputies found Vandiver and the car on Firetower Road at 11:36 a.m.

“It did not work out well for him at all,” Merritt said. “He’s going to jail.”

The car wouldn’t start after the crash. Damages could be $3,000 to $4,000 at a minimum, Merritt said.

Vandiver was being held at the Harrison County jail on a $15,000 bond set by Justice Court Judge Diane Ladner.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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