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Officer fires shots as car rams deputy's vehicle in Largo

LARGO — When Bryant A. Collins' former girlfriend told him she wasn't interested in giving their relationship another chance, he stole her gray Acura, authorities said.

That same car was riddled with gunshots by a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office deputy Tuesday afternoon after Collins tried to flee, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

The incident began Saturday morning when Collins, 32, visited his former girlfriend, Erika Golden, at her St. Petersburg apartment to talk about mending their relationship. She refused. As she left the apartment complex in her Hyundai Sonata, Golden noticed Collins was following her in her second vehicle, a gray Acura Legend, St. Petersburg police said.

He followed her onto the 54th Avenue S ramp leading to Interstate 275, where he rammed into the Hyundai and drove off, police said. She reported the stolen car to police.

On Tuesday about noon, deputy Ethan Taylor ran the tag number on an Acura and discovered the vehicle was stolen. He followed the Acura to a Circle K gas station on the corner of 142nd Avenue N and S Belcher Road near Largo, where he called for backup.

As Collins entered the store to pay for gas and returned to the Acura, Taylor, 47, and deputy Lorie Fagan, 52, drove into the station. He noticed the deputies, got into the Acura, reversed and slammed into Fagan's unmarked Sheriff's Office car while she was still inside, Gualtieri said.

"Deputy Taylor was concerned for her safety and his safety and the safety of others," he said. "It was at this point that he decided to fire."

As Collins tried to pull out of the gas station, Taylor fired several shots into the Acura's driver's side window and windshield. Collins wasn't hit, but he ran the car into a curb and then into a marshy retention pond next to the gas station.

Rick Butcher, who works at the Artisans Gallery in the shopping center where the shooting took place, said he heard five or six gunshots.

"I was a little worried of where it was coming from," he said.

From the window of the store, Butcher saw several deputies pointing guns at Collins as he crawled out of the mangled car to turn himself in.

No one was hurt. Taylor was placed on routine paid administrative leave.

Collins of Clearwater was arrested and faces charges of auto theft and aggravated battery on an officer. He also faces an aggravated battery charge for striking his former girlfriend's car.

In Florida, Collins has been arrested more than 20 times. He also served about two years in state prison for several charges, including vehicle theft, criminal mischief and burglary, state records show.

Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or lmorel@tampabay.com.

Largo Deputy shoots at man in stolen car Pinellas County sheriff’s investigators examine the scene of a shooting near 142nd Avenue N and S Belcher Road. According to the Sheriff’s Office, on Saturday morning the estranged girlfriend of Bryant Collins reported that Collins had stolen her gray Acura. On Tuesday afternoon, Pinellas County Deputy Ethan Taylor spotted the car. He followed the car for some time until the driver, identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Collins, pulled into a Circle K gas station on Belcher Road S at 142nd Avenue in Largo. Another deputy, Lori Fagan, pulled her unmarked car into the station as well. When the deputies began to approach Collins, he put the car in reverse and rammed Fagan’s car, officials said. Deputy Taylor fired several shots at the Acura, Collins accelerated and drove into a retention pond, according to the Sheriff’s Office. No one was hurt. Collins was arrested after crawling out of the car. Records show he has been arrested more than 20 times in Florida. To see more, go to Links in today’s Times at tampabay.com.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Largo Deputy shoots at man in stolen car Pinellas County sheriff’s investigators examine the scene of a shooting near 142nd Avenue N and S Belcher Road. According to the Sheriff’s Office, on Saturday morning the estranged girlfriend of Bryant Collins reported that Collins had stolen her gray Acura. On Tuesday afternoon, Pinellas County Deputy Ethan Taylor spotted the car. He followed the car for some time until the driver, identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Collins, pulled into a Circle K gas station on Belcher Road S at 142nd Avenue in Largo. Another deputy, Lori Fagan, pulled her unmarked car into the station as well. When the deputies began to approach Collins, he put the car in reverse and rammed Fagan’s car, officials said. Deputy Taylor fired several shots at the Acura, Collins accelerated and drove into a retention pond, according to the Sheriff’s Office. No one was hurt. Collins was arrested after crawling out of the car. Records show he has been arrested more than 20 times in Florida. To see more, go to Links in today’s Times at tampabay.com.

Officer fires shots as car rams deputy's vehicle in Largo 08/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 10:32am]
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