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Elusive local auto thefts suspect in custody



News Staff Writer

Atmore police now know why a man who stole two vehicles and tried to steal three other modes of transportation last weekend was so desperate to flee from authorities.

Sgt. Darrell McMann, an Atmore Police Department investigator, reported early Tuesday, February 20, that 26-year-old Justin Daniel Ward, the man believed to be responsible for a series of incidents that started here around 11:15 p.m. last Saturday, February 17, was taken into custody Monday night at a Daphne motel by Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office deputies (not at a Daphne PD traffic stop as was initially reported by authorities).

Ward was already the subject of active arrest warrants obtained by authorities in Panama City Beach, Fla., by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and by Bay Minette police. He was taken into custody around 9:50 p.m.

The Florida warrants charge Ward with fraud, dealing in stolen property and theft of property. He has been sought by Baldwin County on a charge of felony attempting to elude officers, and by Bay Minette for failure to appear in court and answer charges of third-degree domestic violence and driving with a suspended license.

McMann said local police would be seeking “multiple arrest warrants” against Ward, including theft of property, felony attempting to elude officers, leaving the scene of an accident and “various traffic offenses.”

According to APD reports, both local auto thefts resulted in high-speed police pursuits on U.S. 31, and both stolen vehicles were eventually recovered.

The felony theft suspect reportedly ran into a heavily wooded area near Nokomis after he failed to navigate a turn and crashed the second stolen vehicle on James Road.

McMann said Ward is also responsible for trying to steal a four-wheeler, a bicycle and a golf cart in his attempt to flee the area of the wreck before lawmen arrived. The suspect was able to get away, possibly with a little help from a friend.

“He might have had assistance in evading capture before additional law enforcement resources were able to arrive on the scene,” the APD investigator said.

The suspect, who lists a Panama City address and a Perdido address, remained in the Baldwin County Jail early Tuesday.