Santa Rosa deputies searching for car jumper

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Warrant obtained for suspect who eluded deputies leaving mother and special needs child in backseat.

TOM McLAUGHLIN @TomMnwfdn

HOLLEY — The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office has obtained a warrant for a man who allegedly jumped out of a moving vehicle, leaving a woman and special needs child in the car to face possible serious injury.

Sheriff Bob Johnson was traveling north on State Road 87 at 1:35 p.m. Friday when he noticed a silver Kia with an expired tag that didn’t belong to the vehicle it was attached to, a Sheriff’s Office news release said.

When Johnson tried to stop the car at the Buckeye Drive intersection near Holley, the driver “bailed out of the car leaving the car in motion,” the release said.

The driverless Kia was “headed on a collision course into trees with a female passenger and a special needs child in the rear of the vehicle,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

A man later identified as Michael Ray Austin ran into the woods and escaped, the release said.

The woman and child were unhurt.

Austin has seven active (driver’s license) suspensions. When he is caught he will be charged with driving while license suspended or revoked with knowledge, resisting arrest without violence and child neglect, the release said.

Anyone with information on Austin’s whereabouts is asked to contact Santa Rosa County Crime Stoppers at 850-437-STOP. There is a reward of up to $3,000 for information provided anonymously.

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