Mitchell Christmas is lying in a St. Petersburg hospital bed with a few broken bones, a bruised rib cage and a lot to say about what happened to him Saturday night.
Christmas was in a motorcycle crash in downtown New Port Richey, but he's not the 50-year-old with a long criminal record described in Tuesday's Pasco Times. That man is Christmas' father. He says they barely speak.
This Mitchell Christmas is 31. He says he travels for work as an electrician and was in the area for a relative's funeral.
About 10 p.m. Saturday, the Florida Highway Patrol says, the younger Christmas was riding a 2003 Yamaha motorcycle through downtown, fleeing the city's police, blowing through several Main Street red lights.
At the intersection with Madison Street — where Christmas had the green light — Officer Christopher Mellecker pulled his cruiser into the motorcycle's path, the FHP says. The motorcycle hit the cruiser head-on, sending Christmas flying more than 100 feet.
Charges in the crash are pending.
Christmas gave his account of the crash over the phone Tuesday from Bayfront Medical Center.
It all started, he said, on U.S. 19. Christmas was riding his bike, which he calls an "extremely fast rocket," when he noticed a police car behind him with its lights on.
He made a daredevil decision.
"I was like, you know what, I'm going to see if I can get away," he said.
And he hit the throttle. He says he got up to 160 mph before feeling the tug of better judgment. He slowed down to turn left onto Main Street and stop, he said, with the police officer still following.
But then another police car pulled out to intercept him, he said, and then possibly another. He's not sure.
As he sped up again, that's when he met Mellecker's hood.
After the crash, he remembers lying on the ground in shock, his whole body shaking. He said Mellecker was laughing at the mangled condition of his motorcycle.
Christmas tried to get up to fight, but his body wouldn't let him.
"I proceeded to call him every name in the book," Christmas said.
New Port Richey police Capt. Jeff Harrington says officers had been looking for a speeding motorcyclist since last week, when he fled other traffic stops. They identified Christmas as that driver again Saturday night.
Christmas disputes this. He says he was in Tampa last week for his aunt's funeral.
"That wasn't me. They obviously had the wrong person," he said. "Where is their proof that was me? Because I know it wasn't."
Harrington also pointed out that Christmas has no valid driver's license. Christmas says that's a result of an unpaid, out-of-state ticket that resulted in his license being suspended.
Christmas believes Mellecker pulled in front of him on purpose — tried to kill him, even — in an act of vigilante justice.
FHP is still investigating what happened, but Harrington said there's no indication Mellecker was using his cruiser to stop the fleeing bike.
"That was not his intention, as conveyed to us," Harrington said.
Earier Tuesday, Christmas hired an attorney. Later on, the attorney backed out. So he's not feeling very optimistic.
"Chances are I'm not going to win out of this case," he said, "but it just feels good to let the people know what really happened, you know."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6245.