The man who died during a high-speed police pursuit along one of Tallahassee’s busiest thoroughfares has been a habitual traffic offender for more than a decade, with a history of fleeing officers and a long rap sheet.
Jerrod Shamburger, 34, died after a chase that started at the Red Roof Inn on North Monroe Street near Interstate 10 and ended downtown with his Chevrolet Camaro crumpled against a mangled speed limit sign. The crash happened in broad daylight around 7 p.m. while traffic was still relatively heavy on Monroe.
Lacy McMullen Jr., a loan officer at InstaLoan on North Monroe, saw the police chase twice — once when the suspect was racing north on Monroe toward Lake Jackson and again, about 15 minutes later, when he was speeding south on Monroe toward downtown. He said several officers followed closely behind with their lights flashing and sirens blaring.
“The guy in the car was going extremely fast,” he said. “He was ducking and dodging in between the lanes. When I saw him go down the first time, I thought OK — just a guy running from a stop or something. But when I saw it come back, I thought, oh my God, this must have been pretty serious.”
“When I saw the car again, it was dented up pretty badly,” he said. “I saw something drop off the car and it sounded like the police that were chasing him ran over it. It was crazy. It went on for quite a bit. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
The Tallahassee Police Department issued few details but said in a news release the chase began after officers were called to the Red Roof Inn in response to a “weapons call.” While officers were on the scene, Shamburger tried to run over two pedestrians, police said, and drove away.
Zac Ernst, who was staying at the hotel, said he saw a police officer confront the driver in the parking lot just before the chase began. Another police vehicle was blocking the entrance to the hotel.
“There was an officer with his gun drawn pointing at the driver of the car that was parked,” Ernst said. “He was ordering him to do something — I couldn’t quite hear. After a few seconds, the driver of that car peeled off at top speed and went down this long part of the parking lot. I heard a crashing sound. I assume he had hit maybe a police car on the way out. Meanwhile, the officer ordered him to stop.”
“His tire was out,” Horne said. “That’s what made him lose control.”
Gilbert and Horne said it was lucky no one was walking or riding their bike in the intersection at the time.
“Knock on wood there were no pedestrians in the street because when he came through, it was like he didn’t care,” Gilbert said. “He was just trying to get away.”
A history of eluding police
On July 9, 2008, Shamburger led Tallahassee police on a chase that started just a block from where he died. The chase began after an ex-girlfriend of Shamburger’s flagged down a motorcycle officer to report that he was knowingly driving on a suspended license.
The officer got behind Shamburger’s 1997 Chevy sedan, which was waiting at a red light at West Tennessee and Calhoun streets, and ordered him to pull over. But Shamburger ignored the officer and sped through a red light at Monroe Street. The officer followed him for a few blocks but ended the pursuit without making a traffic stop.
Two days later, a police officer familiar with Shamburger spotted him pulling into the Shell gas station on Mahan Drive. At the time, he had four active arrest warrants.
Shamburger came out of the store and ran away, ducking into a patch of kudzu along the railroad tracks. Officers looked for him with search dogs but couldn’t find him. They later got a tip that a man matching his description had gone into the Patients First next door to the gas station. Officers found him hiding in an employee bathroom, curled up inside a small cabinet.
He was also arrested numerous times on charges including burglary, petty theft, possession of marijuana and fleeing police with no regard for the safety of others. He was adjudicated guilty in 2013 in Holmes County for driving with a license suspended for more than six months. He was driving without a valid license at the time of Tuesday’s crash.
TPD is asking anyone who witnessed the crash but hasn’t been interviewed by officers to call (850) 891-4200 and ask for the Traffic Homicide Unit. Tipsters can also leave information anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at (850) 574-TIPS.