Drugs dumped in 130 mph Cornelia chase

  •  Zezmon Zeante Gabriel Steeple, 22, of Homer, and Julio Cesar Gonzales-Brito, 22, of Alto
     Zezmon Zeante Gabriel Steeple, 22, of Homer, and Julio Cesar Gonzales-Brito, 22, of Alto

   Habersham County Sheriff’s Office deputies conducted a high-speed chase through Cornelia late Sunday night that ended with the suspects crashing into a tree. 

   Zezmon Zeante Gabriel Steeple, 22, of Homer, and Julio Cesar Gonzales-Brito, 22, of Alto, were arrested and transported to the Habersham County Jail for the incident. 

   Steeple was charged with improper stopping, wrong side of road, failure to maintain lane, two counts of failure to obey stop sign, four counts of speeding in excess of maximum limits (state speed and zone limits), reckless driving, fleeing or attempting to elude police officer, driving under the influence, and obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers. Gonzales-Brito was arrested on charges of tampering with evidence and abandonment of dangerous drugs.

   According to the incident report, a sheriff’s deputy was traveling in the area of South Main Street around 11:46 p.m. Sunday when he heard squealing tires and observed a black truck turn quickly onto Moss Street and then onto Wells Street, followed by a white SUV. A chase down state Route (SR) 365 ensued after that. 

   “[The sheriff’s deputy] passed the white SUV following the truck and activated his emergency equipment to initiate a traffic stop,” the report states. “The truck, a black Ford pickup, slowed but failed to yield. ... As the truck approached the northbound on ramp for GA 365, a white object was thrown from the passenger window.”

   Based on experience, the sheriff’s deputy stated, the white object appeared to be a bag of dope. The
pursuit continued southbound on SR 365, reaching speeds in excess of 130 mph. As the pursuit approached the Duncan Bridge Road intersection, according to the report, the truck entered the left turn lane and made a left onto Duncan Bridge Road. 

   The sheriff’s deputy stated he tried to set up a PIT (pursuit intervention technique) maneuver, but the truck swerved to the right to allegedly try to either block or hit his vehicle. The truck continued into Alto on Gainesville Highway at a high rate of speed, sometimes crossing over onto the opposite lane, according to the report. “As the pursuit approached Rice St. again, the truck turned left onto Rice St. and towards the dead end,” the report states. “When the truck reached the dead end, it crashed into a tree.” 

   Upon crashing, the driver, later identified as Steeple, exited and ran toward the woods, with two sheriff’s deputies following behind. According to the report, the sheriff’s deputies tackled him about 50 yards into the woods. He was handcuffed and searched soon after. The passenger inside the vehicle, identified as Gonzales-Brito, was also detained.   

   “Steeple admitted without prompting that he ran because he was DUI. [The sheriff’s deputy] had already noted the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Steeple,” the report states, adding that Steeple still refused to provide a sample on the alcosensor. 

   It also states that a sheriff’s deputy transported Steeple back to the location where the suspected drugs were thrown out, but the item had already been picked up. Steeple denied any knowledge of the suspected drugs, but continually asked about his charges even though he had been told about them several times.

   “When the question was asked about drug charges and his denial, I explained that the DTF (drug task force) had been contacted and his phones and Julio’s phone were probably going to be searched,” the report states. “He didn’t say another word for the remainder of the ride to the jail.” 

   The DTF will continue the investigation. Both bonded out Wednesday.