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Lehigh Valley

Police catch car thief after he crashes stolen SUV into tobacco shop

Driver crashes into tobacco stand

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem police captured a car thief Thursday morning, not long after he crashed a stolen SUV into a tobacco shop.

Surveillance video obtained exclusively by 69 News shows a frightening scene.

The Chevrolet Blazer was reported stolen early in the morning from the Route 412 construction area near Hellertown.

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio said shortly after 10 a.m., the vehicle was spotted by police in the Marvine Pembroke area.

Police pursued the Blazer but lost it in the area of Stefko Boulevard.

Another officer on Stefko spotted the Blazer a few minutes later.

The driver took off when he saw the officer, but lost control and crashed the SUV  into the Cigar and Cigarette Outlet, formerly Maryland Fried Chicken, at 2158 Stefko Blvd.

The driver then fled on foot, with a cruiser pursuing him.

Police also gave chase on foot, and a K-9 unit was called in to assist in the pursuit.

The male was located in the backyard of a home just over the border in Bethlehem Township.

Store clerk Manoj Tailor was behind the counter and saw it all.

"I was taking care of one customer and I -- one big sound in the back of the store, and I go to outside," he said.

Surveillance video shows store shelves flying inside.  Amazingly, no customers were nearby.

"I was just in that spot like one second ago and if i was here at 10:30, I don't think I'd be here talking to you," said customer Robyn Walters.

Just after the violent crash, video shows the suspect jumping out and running away. 

DiLuzio has not yet released the man's name, but he is in custody and facing charges, including for auto theft.

Although initial reports indicated the man was armed,  the police chief said no weapon was located in his possession or in the vehicle.

Back at the store, workers were taking their wild ride in stride.

"I was not angry," one clerk said.  "Stuff happens everywhere, not only [to] you.  Accidents, car crash -- it happens everywhere."

The store re-opened Thursday afternoon.  The people who run it say they don't know how much it's going to cost to fix all this yet, or how much insurance will cover.

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