TAMPA — He could have just kept on driving. But Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White said he could not pass by and do nothing as a man beat up a woman.
So he made a U-turn Friday afternoon and confronted 40-year-old David Rodgers, who was dragging his girlfriend, 25-year-old Christina Hill, back to their home on N Boulevard.
White said he was driving home from work when he saw Rodgers punching Hill on the street in broad daylight. The woman was bleeding heavily.
"I said to myself, 'Did I just see what I thought I saw?" he said.
He pulled out his cell phone and called the police, letting them know what was happening.
White, a former Tampa police officer who left the squad in 1994, said he noticed that several drivers around him had done the same thing, but no one tried to stop the attack.
"I mean she was screaming bloody murder on that corner. 'Help me! Help me! Help me!' and no one was coming," he said.
As he got out of his car, Rodgers was dragging Hill by her hair across four lanes of traffic toward their house at 3701 N Boulevard, two blocks south of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
"He was dragging her into the residence and then she ran into the house," White said. "That's when I physically restrained him until the police arrived."
He wouldn't say specifically how he kept Rodgers away from Hill. But White said he couldn't risk allowing Rodgers to follow Hill inside, based on the pummeling she received in public.
"He was screaming and yelling and cursing but I just wasn't going to let him go," White said.
When the officers arrived, they took Rodgers into custody and charged him with domestic battery by choking and domestic violence, said Tampa Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis.
State records show that Rodgers has an arrest record dating from 1987, including convictions for robbery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
The incident started inside the couple's apartment, where Rodgers argued with a roommate. Hill ran from the apartment during the argument and Rodgers chased her and choked her, Davis said in a news release.
Vic DiMaio, White's former campaign consultant, said he happened to be passing by, saw the commotion and recognized the commissioner. Later he alerted the news media about White's actions.
White was a Tampa City Council member before winning a commission seat, and faces a re-election challenge in 2010 from former state Sen. Les Miller.
He said he applauds the other drivers for calling for help, but he said it is all too common in society for people to shy away from things that don't directly affect their lives.
"I don't think anyone else felt comfortable (with confronting Rodgers), and it wasn't that I felt comfortable, it's that I felt compelled," White said.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.