GASTONIA, N.C. – Police say a teen stole a car from an elderly man Thursday morning at a Gastonia mall and then led officers on a high speed chase through two counties before crashing twice.
The incident started around 9:45 a.m at the Westfield Eastridge Mall when a 70-year-old man was assaulted and was forced to hand over his keys to 17-year-old Tommy Debr'e McCray, police said.
According to police, McCray put the elderly mallwalker from Connecticut in a chokehold and kicked him in the face before taking the man's Chevrolet truck.
McCray, who was reported as a runaway from a Gastonia group home during the incident, then allegedly fled on to Interstate 85 north towards Charlotte, reaching speeds of 110 miles per hour.
Officers from Gastonia and Lowell Police Departments joined Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and North Carolina Highway Patrol in pursuit of the truck before McCray wrecked twice, according to officials.
The truck hit a vehicle at an unknown location, causing minor injuries to the other person. In the second wreck, McCray hit a stop sign in the 900 block of Rowan Street in northwest Charlotte.
Derrick Lindsay was cutting hair at Hoskins Barbershop when he heard the crash that ended the chase.
“We (saw) the gentleman jump out and run,” Lindsay said. “Police cars everywhere, all around. At least about 20 cars…My heart goes out to the victim and also the young man. We wish better.”
Officers say McCray has an extensive record as a juvenile. He was treated for minor injuries after the crashes, and officials say he “is assisting police in the investigation.”
It's unclear why McCray allegedly targeted the elderly man. McCray was charged with felony robbery, motor vehicle larceny and assault, among other charges, and is behind bars on a $620,000 bond.