GIBSONTON — A state prison officer, whose wife accused him of choking her after he was suspended over on-the-job conduct, was arrested early Thursday after a 30-mile high-speed chase through Pasco and Hillsborough counties, authorities said.
The bizarre long-distance run of Andre Darnell Burgess began near Tallahassee, where he works as an officer at Madison Correctional Institution, according to state officials. It ended on Interstate 75 near Gibsonton, where he crashed his Buick, then fought and argued with troopers after they arrested him, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said.
"I work at DOC," Burgess said, according to an FHP report. "Please, I know I did wrong. … I drank several containers of energy drinks and several containers of alcohol."
The chase began about 12:40 a.m., when Trooper Ronald Evans arrived at the Shell gas station on State Road 54 west of Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel to investigate an accident. Pulling into the station, he saw Burgess, 28, slumped over the steering wheel of the tan Buick, parked at a gas pump.
The car's front end was damaged, having slammed into a red Toyota Prius that was parked nearby, authorities said. Evans walked up to Burgess and asked if he was all right, the report stated. Burgess looked at him with bloodshot, watery eyes.
"Wait!" Burgess shouted, according to the report. "I'm on the phone."
Moments later, Burgess fled, authorities said, driving across SR 54 before heading south on I-75 as Evans followed.
Tallahassee police had been looking for Burgess after his wife reported that he had gotten drunk, tackled and choked her, authorities said.
That came after Burgess was placed on unpaid leave, accused of "conduct unbecoming" for arguing with a prison staff member.
He was seen earlier Wednesday evening in Marion County. An alert described him as "suicidal."
Other agencies, including Tampa police, joined the chase as it stretched south along I-75, topping speeds of 90 mph. Police tried to bump the Buick's rear end to get it to spin out of control, but Burgess kept going, the report said. Soon, he lost his left rear wheel. The car's axle ground into the pavement, trailing sparks.
He finally stopped after crashing into an exit sign about 1:10 a.m. near Exit 246 in Gibsonton, the report said. He got out and lay on the ground. Troopers and police swarmed.
Later, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Burgess ignored commands to stand up and refused to sit in the back of a patrol car, authorities said. He smelled of alcohol, troopers said. When finally confined, Burgess began spitting inside the trooper's car.
At the Hillsborough County jail, he kept up the fight, the report said. Hillsborough sheriff's deputies put him in a single-man cell, strapped him in a restraint chair and covered his face with a spit sock hood, the report said.
Burgess has worked as an officer for the Florida Department of Corrections at Madison since 2010, state officials said. The prison, in rural Madison County, houses about 1,200 male inmates at all levels of custody.
Tallahassee police were trying to obtain a warrant charging Burgess with attempted homicide by strangulation, authorities said.
He remained jailed Thursday afternoon in lieu of $8,250 bail for charges of aggravated fleeing to elude, leaving the scene of a crash and driving under the influence with property damage.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Dan Sullivan can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or [email protected]