MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department says a suspected car burglar trying to get away from deputies slammed his car into another vehicle and then tried to make a run for it with a toddler in his arms.
The crash happened on Thursday afternoon at Appling Farms Parkway and Hillshire Drive in Northeast Shelby County.
Deputies said John Valentine, 31, dropped the child and was eventually arrested. He’s now facing a slew of charges, including evading arrest, child abuse and neglect, violation of child restraint laws, aggravated assault, and a convicted felon in possession of a handgun.
The driver who was hit wasn’t hurt, but he’s still rattled and waiting to find out if his new SUV was totaled.
“I was just thinking this guy is going to hit me because he was going too fast, and he avoided a stop sign,” said the victim, who did not want to be identified.
Deputies were working a multi-agency detail called “Operation Sleigh Ride” when they spotted Valentine’s black Infiniti G37 near Summer Avenue and Sycamore View Road. They said the vehicle matched the description of an Infiniti involved in several car burglaries earlier that day.
Deputies attempted to pull over the car but said the driver took off. They lost sight of the vehicle at Appling and Reese, but Memphis officers in the area picked up the chase and deployed stops sticks at the intersection where the Infiniti crashed into the other driver.
“I was like, oh, I helped stop a felon because he hit me, and after that, his car was out of commission,” said the other driver.
Deputies said Valentine got out of the Infiniti with a toddler and took off running. They said he got rid of a gun and intentionally dropped the child before being taken into custody by a K9 unit.
“I didn’t see the child. I barely saw the driver,” said the motorist who was hit. “What are you going to accomplish by running? And then you have a child in the car and put them in danger.”
Investigators said they found marijuana and a scale inside Valentine’s car and a gun in a nearby field. Valentine was also charged with possession of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.
Court records show Valentine pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in October, and he received a three-year suspended sentence. So far, he has not been charged in connection to any auto burglaries.
The toddler was transported to the hospital in stable condition, and DCS was contacted.
Valentine is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.