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Cold beer, hot pursuit land men in jail
Two held after separate chases
-florea patrick
Patrick Florea - photo by Submitted
Two men face a variety of traffic and other charges, including violating their probation, after each led authorities on a high-speed chase near Cumming early this week.

The incidents, which happened on Sunday and Monday, are not connected, but Forsyth County Sheriff’s Capt. Frank Huggins said they illustrate the waste of such actions.

“Running from or attempting to elude law enforcement is an exercise in futility,” Huggins said. “At best, you will end up in jail. At worst, you could face years in prison if you end up killing someone during the chase.”

Both Christopher Ross Eckhardt, 26, of Jasper and Patrick Ryan Florea, 34, of Driftwood Circle remained Thursday at the Forsyth County Detention Center, a jail spokeswoman said.

Eckhardt was arrested early Sunday after a chase from southeastern Forsyth into Gwinnett County and back into Forsyth.

The next day, Florea was arrested after first refusing to pull over on Pilgrim Mill Road for having a headlight out.

First chase

The incident involving Eckhardt began about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, sheriff’s reports said, when a deputy attempted to make a traffic stop for a tag light violation at Samples Road and Hwy. 20.

The 1997 Jeep Cherokee turned into a Publix parking lot, but instead of stopping, made a hard right turn and accelerated back onto Hwy. 20.

The truck, driven by Eckhardt, turned left onto the highway and traveled in the wrong lane until the median ended.

Another deputy joined the pursuit, which reached speeds of 110 mph on Hwy. 20 east.

“The suspect vehicle was continuously swerving into the opposite lane of travel to pass cars,” the report said.  

The chase continued into Gwinnett County where again, Eckhardt drove on the wrong side of the road while going around curves and traveling into oncoming traffic.

After taking a right onto Suwanee Dam Road, the chase fluctuated between 75 and 95 mph. Before Hwy. 23, a third deputy took the lead and spun Eckhardt’s truck.

Eckhardt got out and was arrested. Authorities found an open can of Bud Light beer in the front cup holder and an empty can of Steel Reserve beer on the rear floorboard.

Eckhardt was charged with fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, driving under the influence of alcohol and open container. Other charges include speeding, reckless driving, driving on the wrong side of the road, probation violation and no tag light.

Bond has been set at $7,480, but Eckhardt remains in jail on a probation hold, a spokeswoman said.

Court documents show he has a lengthy criminal history, including recent episodes in nearby Dawson and Lumpkin counties.

As a result, Eckardt was sentenced in 2008 to probation boot camp and jail time for violating probation for charges including aggravated battery, obstruction of a law enforcement officer and public drunkenness.

Second chase

Florea reportedly ignored a deputy’s lights and siren about 9:30 p.m. Sunday as he was traveling west on Pilgrim Mill Road in a blue 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass.

The deputy noted in a sheriff’s report that Florea’s front headlight was out. Florea sped up as he and the deputy crossed over Ga. 400 and headed into Cumming, eventually traveling 85 mph.

Once he approached Cumming City Park, Florea began traveling east in the westbound lane. He then hit his brakes and slid into a curb and sidewalk at the park.

Florea ran from the car into a wooded area, where the deputy eventually pulled him out of the bushes by his shirt.

Deputies found a pill container holding Xanax and Methadone in his pocket, according to the report.

They also found a nearly empty 24-ounce can of Icehouse on the floorboard of the vehicle. The beer was still cold.

Authorities also discovered that Florea was wanted in Hall County for probation violations.

Bond has not been set for Florea, who faces charges of possession of a synthetic narcotic, fleeing or attempting to elude and driving on the wrong side of the road.

He also has been charged with open container, reckless driving, driving while license suspended or revoked and headlight violation.