Wanted sex offender captured in semi after police chase

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January 16, 2007

EVANS, Ga.---A sex offender with a long record led police on a dangerous chase from Augusta Mall to Aiken County and back to Belair Road in Columbia County.

But in the end...you can run, but you can't hide.

Deputies say Vincent Gaston exposed himself to a woman at the Augusta Mall last night, then took off to North Augusta and back down I-20 to Columbia County.

The chase ended at the Belair CITGO, where lots of people watched deputies make the arrest.

Records show this isn't Gaston's first trip to jail, and experts tell us repeat sex offenders can be hard to treat.

Waffle House worker Tiffany Costello watched as the blue cab of a freight truck screeched into the CITGO parking lot and a man tried to run off.

"Came in and swerved off through the parking lot, put the truck in park, and ran," she told News 12.

It all started at the Augusta Mall, where deputies say Gaston exposed himself to a woman in front of a store.

She called security and he took off, heading from Bobby Jones to I-20 east, then back to I-20 west. Finally, deputies stopped him at the CITGO with speed spikes and chased him down when he tried to run.

It's not the first time manager Brandy Phillips has seen an arrest in her parking lot.

"Everybody comes here when they're running from the cops," she said. "They pull off I-20 right here."

In this case, deputies arrested a convicted sex offender who was already wanted for not registering in Dekalb County.

"Once they violate the law, they'll do it over and over and over again," said Maj. Ken Autry.

Maj. Autry says Gaston has been convicted of sex crimes 7 times.

MCG forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carmen Nichita works with offenders. She says sexual disorders are tough to treat.

"It doesn't go away. It's always there. It's a chronic disorder," Dr. Nichita told News 12.

Now this chronic offender is off the streets.

Gaston faces charges for indecent exposure and running from deputies. He is also wanted in his home county, Dekalb.

Most of Gaston's seven prior arrests were not in Georgia. The majority were in California. The Georgia Department of Corrections website shows his only conviction here happened back in 1997, for cruelty to children.