Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Driver describes panic in fatal chase

BROOKSVILLE — Michael Anthony sat behind the wheel of his old Honda as police officers yelled and banged on the window.

A moment earlier, a Hernando sheriff's deputy chasing Anthony south on U.S. 41 hit his car, causing him to spin out of control south of Brooksville.

Instead of surrendering, Anthony picked up his crack pipe and took another hit. Then he threw the Accord into gear and took off again.

"I remember thinking, now you done it. Now they're going to be real mad," Anthony testified Wednesday. "I chose to go even faster at that point. I wanted to get the heck out of there and just went as fast as I could."

By the time the chase on July 3, 2011, ended in St. Petersburg, two Hernando deputies had crashed. One was seriously injured. The other, John Mecklenburg, died.

Anthony, 37, was charged in Hernando with attempted felony murder, attempted second-degree murder and five other crimes. Each of the attempted murder charges carries a mandatory life sentence.

After the chase resumed, prosecutors say, Anthony rammed Hernando sheriff's Sgt. Brandon Ross' patrol car, causing Ross to spin out of control and crash at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Ayers Road. Moments later, Mecklenburg crashed while in pursuit just south of the Pasco/Hernando line.

Ross was injured and testified earlier this week. Anthony is due to go to trial on a murder charge for Mecklenburg's death in Pasco early next year.

On Wednesday, Anthony told jurors he left work in Ocala on Friday, July 1, and decided to stop to buy crack cocaine. He'd struggled with addiction for 18 years but had recently completed an 18-month in-patient treatment program. He had been clean for more than two years and had a job managing quick lube stores.

Angry at himself, Anthony kept driving and smoking. By the time a Brooksville officer saw him run a red light about 4 a.m. Sunday and tried to pull him over, Anthony said, he was hallucinating and in a state of extreme paranoia.

As he sped south, Anthony said, he heard loud pops and thought officers were shooting at his engine. No shots were fired.

His defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Stephany Espinosa, asked why he didn't stop.

"I was scared of getting caught because it would lead to a cascade," he replied. "Everything would just crumble down. My family, my friends, my job. Everything I worked for."

Earlier Wednesday, crash reconstruction expert John Murdoch said evidence indicated Anthony's Honda swerved and struck Ross' patrol car before the deputy lost control.

"Did you intentionally hit Sgt. Ross's vehicle?" Espinosa asked Anthony.

"No," he replied. "Absolutely not."

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