Local News

August 20, 2013

Cop car thief had long criminal history

This wasn’t Antonio Sheffield’s first brush with the law, but it ended up being his last.

Before the 36-year-old Gulfport, Miss., man reportedly shot himself in the head from the driver’s seat of a Chattanooga police car after robbing a nail salon, assaulting a police officer and stealing the patrol car with a prisoner in tow, he knew well the inside of a law enforcement vehicle, and he knew what the inside of a jail cell looked like.

The man who led officers on a high speed chase down I-75 in the stolen patrol car was finally stopped on North Dug Gap Road just off the Ga. Connector 3 exit from the interstate as law enforcement officers from Chattanooga as well as the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia State Patrol pursued him. Authorities finally boxed him in just past Marketing Alliance on North Dug Gap Road where officials said he shot himself.

Before all that, Sheffield was one of the Gulfport area’s most-wanted. Authorities there said he robbed a man, beat him and shot him three times with a Judge 4-10 shotgun in May. The victim survived.

“He’s been on the run ever since,” said Stone County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Phyllis Olds.

Sheffield was a familiar name around the sheriff’s office there. When he allegedly committed the armed robbery, he was already on federal probation for a similar crime, Olds said, and he was wanted on a probation warrant. In 2008, he was arrested for assaulting a police officer, records show.

The Chattanooga robbery is still under investigation. Authorities in the Scenic City have confirmed Sheffield came into Tiffany Nails at 5509 Brainerd Road where he and at least one other suspect stole some jewelry, money and cellphones from customers and employees inside. Officers found a suspect at a nearby CVS Pharmacy about an hour later and placed him in the back seat of a marked patrol car. The man was not under arrest, and authorities have since confirmed he was not involved in the robbery, said Chattanooga Police Department spokesman Nathan Hartwig.

Shortly after officers found that man, they located Sheffield at the nearby Economy Inn. According to a press release from the Chattanooga Police Department, Sheffield shot at the officers and they fired back. Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Rick Swiney said Sheffield had a gunshot wound to his leg that he sustained before he got to Georgia. The Chattanooga news release states officials are “still awaiting the autopsy report” to determine if Sheffield was shot by police.

Officials said Sheffield hit a Chattanooga police officer on the head and took off in the patrol car while the first suspect was still in the back seat. That man was held for a short time at the Whitfield County jail but not booked. He was released to Chattanooga authorities that same night. He was not hurt, officials said, and was never charged.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into Sheffield’s death. Special Agent in Charge Greg Ramey said the investigation is ongoing, but preliminary information shows the officers on the scene did nothing wrong. An autopsy will eventually say for sure, but early information indicates Sheffield shot himself once in the head, likely with a gun other than the one issued to a police officer, after the vehicle stopped.

Officials said law enforcement officers boxed Sheffield in and were able to get him to stop the vehicle, and it appears he committed suicide once he saw he had nowhere else to run.

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