A Jacksonville Beach man who was arrested Wednesday night in St. Johns County after he was accused of stealing an unmarked police vehicle and leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase died in a Jacksonville hospital Thursday, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
Matthew Earl Bennett, 35, was first spotted around 6 p.m. by the Sheriff’s Office parked near the intersection of State Road 16 and I-95 in a 2003 Toyota Corolla. The car, which was reportedly stolen in a carjacking in Jacksonville, had been the subject of a reckless driving call earlier in the day, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
When the deputy approached the car, he saw that Bennett was bleeding heavily. Bennett then refused commands and slung his blood on the deputy, according to an arrest report, and a struggle ensued.
Bennett eventually tried to hijack a car and a motorcycle before the deputy tried to restrain him. The bloody suspect then slipped away and hopped in a nearby unmarked Sheriff’s Office SUV that had pulled up to help the deputy and took off on southbound I-95, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Bennett then weaved in and out of traffic at speeds exceeding 100 mph, the Sheriff’s Office said, as the Florida Highway Patrol joined the chase.
Bennett was eventually stopped by authorities using a PIT maneuver near the 301 mile marker. Bennett violently resisted, according to the Sheriff’s Office, as he was being taken into custody by spitting and throwing blood on deputies. He was transported to an area hospital where he was in stable but critical condition Wednesday night.
I-95 was shut down for hours near State Road 206 while FHP, the Sheriff’s Office and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office cleared the scene.
The Sheriff’s Office later learned that Bennett was reportedly involved in a series of criminal events in Duval County, where he is believed to have sustained his injuries. The deputies involved in the incident in St. Johns County were not seriously hurt but were taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
In St. Johns County, Bennett faced multiple charges, including two counts of robbery, fleeing police and resisting an officer with violence. It was unclear Thursday morning what additional charges Bennett will face in Duval County. JSO declined to comment or provide an arrest report Thursday.