Wheelchair bandit steals car from US dealership

MIAMI (AFP) - A wheelchair-bound man with a hankering for a sleeker set of wheels drove a car right out of a Florida dealership, leading police on a chase before being arrested for the theft, authorities said on Thursday.

Shamal Battice, described as a paraplegic, allegedly stole the vehicle on Wednesday from an auto dealership in the central Florida city of Ocala under the pretext of planning to buy a car.

Ocala police sergeant Angy Scroble told AFP that Battice pulled up his wheelchair to one particular vehicle he'd had his eye on, a late model white Pontiac.

The disabled man asked the salesman for help getting into the vehicle, saying he merely wanted to feel the interior of the car, she said.

But once seated behind the wheel, Battice locked the car door, turned the ignition key and hit the gas - using his folding cane to depress the accelerator pedal as he sped away.

Police and sheriff's deputies who gave chase were unable to overtake Battice, who was arrested later while refueling the stolen vehicle at a gas station several km away.