Coolidge, GA (WALB) – A man is in jail after he led Brooks County authorities on a chase in a stolen truck. At about 7:15 Friday morning, police say David Engwiller ditched a vehicle he stole in Florida and took off in another one from a Coolidge grocery store.
And he may not have been caught if not for the quick thinking of the truck's owner.
Al Patel, a manager at the Food Champ in Coolidge, thought a customer was just playing an early morning prank.
"One of our customers came in and told us that the car was being taken. He thought she was joking because we have a lot of friendly customers," said Food Champ Employee Terry Patterson.
But it was no joke. Patel had parked his truck out front just long enough to go inside and check on a cashier.
But it was long enough for David Engwiller to hop in the idling truck and drive off. Patel declined an interview, but his co-workers were quick to tell what happened next.
"When he looked outside he noticed that his truck was being taken. So he got into his cashier's car and followed the gentleman to Moultrie," said Patterson.
Engwiller suddenly pulled over in a church parking lot.
"The guy stopped, I don't know why. So Al confronted him and asked about his truck, but he didn't want to physically try to get the truck back. Then the guy got back in and drove off. That's when Al called the police," said Patterson.
Patel continued to follow the vehicle at a safe distance while keeping authorities aware of the situation.
"He gave us a blow by blow of where the truck was headed so we knew where to go," said Coolidge Police Chief James.
Engwiller drove all the way to Quitman, where Brooks County sheriff's deputies even had to clear school zones before Engwiller finally wrecked the truck. Authorities say Patel took a risk that paid off.
"It could have gone both ways but it was a help because he stayed back enough that he was careful. Talking to dispatch on the radio by the phone and we were able to get him. If he didn't stay with him, we might have lost him," said James.
And they say Engwiller may have switched vehicles again, and gotten away for good.
David Engwiller will be held in Brooks County Jail until he bonds on their charges and then will be turned over to Thomas County and Coolidge Police to face additional charges.