DUNEDIN — Cabdriver Paul Farris was no longer thinking much about the warning Pinellas sheriff's deputies had given him more than an hour earlier as he drove through Dunedin early Saturday.
An armed, dangerous fugitive was on the loose. He had a gold shirt and was probably soaking wet because he'd been chased into a marshy area off Virginia Avenue.
Then, about 6 a.m., the fare Farris picked up at a McDonald's on State Road 580 mentioned that earlier in the day, his friends had pushed him down on the ground and gotten him all wet.
"My hair stood up on my neck," Farris said. He looked around and saw that his fare "was wet from head to toe" and wearing a gold shirt.
Staying calm, Farris, 47, drove the man to a motel on U.S. 19. The man handed Farris a wet $5 bill, and said he would run up to his room to get another few dollars. Farris told him not to bother.
After pulling away from the hotel, Farris called 911. Deputies quickly arrested the man.
His name is James Beardsley, 56, and he was arrested on charges of leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing a law enforcement officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He also was arrested on a warrant for violating parole in Missouri.
"What a bad day for him," said Farris, who said he is a retired Michigan state trooper. "Of all the cabbies in the county, he gets the retired cop."