Florida car chase in 2020 may be linked to Havana Syndrome: report

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A high-speed chase in Florida may be linked to the mysterious phenomenon known as “Havana Syndrome,” according to a new report.  

U.S. and Canadian embassy staff first reported the condition in Cuba in 2016, and it was later reported by hundreds of American personnel in multiple countries.

A promotional clip of a story from CBS News’ ’60 Minutes,’ set to air later Sunday, shows body cam footage of officers chasing a car down a highway in Key West in June 2020. The chase goes on for 15 miles, with the driver topping speeds of 110 mph. 

The U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba is seen on Jan. 4, 2023 (Havana Syndrome Study)

Eventually, he’s pulled over and apprehended. Inside the man’s car, officers found bank account notes, and a device resembling a walkie-talkie that can erase a car’s computer data, including its GPS history. 

Officers also found a Russian passport. The suspect gives his name as Vitalii and says he is from St. Petersburg. 

When asked why he fled police officers, he repeatedly says, “I don’t know.” 

The report comes weeks after the release of a nearly five-year study from the National Institutes of Health, which found no explanation for the mysterious health problems – including headaches, balance problems and difficulties with thinking and sleep – that have been reported by U.S. diplomats and other government employees. The NIH conducted an array of advanced tests but found no brain injuries or degeneration. 

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The NIH did appear to contradict some earlier findings that raised the specter of brain injuries in people experiencing what the State Department now calls “anomalous health incidents.”

Sophisticated MRI scans detected no significant differences in brain volume, structure or white matter — signs of injury or degeneration — when Havana syndrome patients were compared to healthy government workers with similar jobs, including some in the same embassy. Nor were there significant differences in cognitive and other tests, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cuban capital

Aerial view of the city of Havana on August 02, 2017, in Havana, Cuba. (Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images)

While that couldn’t rule out some transient injury when symptoms began, researchers said that was good news that they couldn’t spot long-term markers on brain scans that are typical after trauma or stroke.

Sunday’s report is the latest episode in an ongoing saga to unravel a mystery that began when personnel at the U.S. embassy in Cuba began seeking medical care for hearing loss and ear-ringing after reporting sudden weird noises.

Early on, there was concern that Russia or another country may have used some form of directed energy to attack Americans. But last year, U.S. intelligence agencies said there was no sign a foreign adversary was involved and that most cases appeared to have different causes, from undiagnosed illnesses to environmental factors.

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The NIH study, which began in 2018 and included more than 80 Havana syndrome patients, wasn’t designed to examine the likelihood of some weapon or other trigger for Havana syndrome symptoms. Chan said the findings don’t contradict the intelligence agencies’ conclusions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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