FLORENCE — Alabama Law Enforcement Agency State Troopers are investigating a Saturday morning pursuit that ended when an 18-year-old suspect in several vehicle theft cases veered off U.S. 72 west of Rogersville and died after being ejected from the stolen vehicle he was driving.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in the chase, which originated at about 3 a.m. when a Florence Police patrol officer spotted a white Mitsubishi SUV that had been stolen from Rising Crust Pizza on U.S. 72 at about 1 a.m., Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler said.
The officer attempted to pull the vehicle over, but the driver would not stop, and began heading east on U.S. 72, Tyler said.
As the chase passed through Killen, that town's officers joined the pursuit, as did state troopers and officers from Rogersvile. Tyler said Florence Police ceased being the primary agency once the chase left the city's jurisdiction.
"At some point, the driver loses control, or makes some inexplicable move where he goes into a ditch, causing the vehicle to flip and he is ejected," Tyler said.
Lauderdale County Coroner Butch Tucker identified the driver as 18-year-old Joseph Aigner, who died at North Alabama Medical Center from injuries sustained in the crash.
Tyler said after the incident, police learned that on Oct. 7, Aigner had been reported as a "runaway" from a Huntsville group home. Tucker said Aigner was 17 when he left the group home, but turned 18 later in October.
Tyler said the officer who spotted the stolen vehicle on Huntsville Road was the same officer who responded to Rising Crust Pizza on U.S. 72 at about 1 a.m. concerning a vehicle that had been stolen from the restaurant.
While he was there, police recovered an identical white Mistubishi SUV that had been stolen in Muscle Shoals, Tyler said.
"The keys were in the ignition and it looks like he got into an identical vehicle and drove off," Tyler said.
Efforts to reach Muscle Shoals Police Chief Clint Reck were unsuccessful Monday, as were efforts to contact state troopers.
Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson said it appears Aigner was not involved in vehicle thefts that had occurred in Colbert County on Friday. Williamson said the sheriff's department is still trying to locate that suspect, who is reportedly from Lincoln County.
Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan said Aigner was not involved in the theft of a vehicle that was recovered Friday.
Tyler said Florence Police are cooperating with ALEA in its investigation.
Tucker said he spoke to Aigner's mother, who is a resident of Sheffield, Saturday night.
He said an autopsy will be performed on Aigner's body.