CROWN POINT — A wheel smoked and police saw parts fall off a stolen car Thursday as a Gary man led police on a high-speed chase through East Chicago, court records allege.
Vonzell Griffin Jr., 19, first caught an officer's attention because he was not wearing a seat belt as he drove near 149th Street and Northcote Avenue, Lake Criminal Court records say.
The officer attempted to stop the black Nissan, but Griffin sped south on Baring Avenue and east on 150th Street, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Griffin disregarded stop signs and signals, nearly hit a semitrailer at the intersection of 150th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard and struck a red Pontiac in the area of the canal bridge at 100 W. 150th Street, records say.
As Griffin headed south on Kennedy Avenue, an officer saw parts falling off the car and smoke coming from the driver's side tire area, the affidavit says.
Police forced the Nissan into a field between Michigan Street and the South Shore Line. Griffin continued to drive on a rim for a short distance until police boxed in the Nissan, records say.
Griffin and two other men were removed from the car, which started on fire.
As police used an extinguisher to put out the flames, they noticed a Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun on the front driver's floorboard, records say.
Police later determined the gun had been reported stolen in Portage, and the Nissan was stolen from Schererville on Feb. 18, according to the affidavit.
Griffin faces felony charges of auto theft, resisting law enforcement and theft of a firearm and misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license.
Not-guilty pleas were entered on Griffin's behalf during an initial hearing Monday, records show. He was ordered released to the Lake County Community Corrections work-release program pending trial.