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No-contest plea sends Wesley Chapel man to prison for 10 years

DADE CITY — It ultimately didn't matter whether he was actually trying to kill the sheriff's deputy.

The gun went off.

A shot was fired.

That was two summers ago in Zephyrhills. On Wednesday here in court, Bryan Stephen Roque, 20, of Wesley Chapel pleaded no contest to attempted murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The attempted murder charge was the most serious part of a nine-count indictment that meant Roque could have gone to prison for the rest of his life had he gone to trial and lost.

"Nobody likes to agree to go to prison for 10 years," public defender Steve Herman said, "but it seemed like it was probably the most practical thing to do.

"He never disputed the charges against him except for the attempted murder," Herman added.

Roque was wearing no shirt and no shoes in August 2007 when he caused almost $400 of damage trying to yank a cash register off the counter at the Zephyrhills Bealls outlet and then stole more than $500 from a cash register at the nearby Sweetbay supermarket. He left in a stolen white 2006 Toyota Corolla.

Pasco deputy Todd Koenig spotted him and came up behind him and turned on his lights. Roque sped up.

The chase got up to 110 miles per hour.

It ended when Roque skidded into a fence and got stuck.

He got out of the car on the driver's side and ran before Koenig wrestled him to the ground in a ditch. Two backup officers from the Zephyrhills Police Department showed up to help.

Roque, the officers said later in depositions, was wild-eyed, sweaty and deceptively strong. They tried to handcuff him with his hands behind his back. But in the scuffle, Roque, who is 5-foot-3 and 117 pounds, clawed at the holster of Koenig's .40-caliber Glock and managed somehow to get his finger inside the guard of the gun.

The bullet just missed Zephyr­hills officer James Marler.

"I felt the heat from it on my right side," he said in his deposition.

Roque claimed the gun went off by accident and that he wasn't trying to shoot anybody. But he had fought hard enough to rip apart the deputy's holster. Along with attempted murder, he was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, depriving an officer of protection or communication, aggravated fleeing or eluding, criminal mischief, possession of cocaine and two counts of grand theft.

"He wasn't trying to get away," Marler said. "He wasn't trying to run. He was trying to grab whatever he could and hurt somebody."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

No-contest plea sends Wesley Chapel man to prison for 10 years 10/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 1:48pm]
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