Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Public safety

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 [email protected]

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Published: 12/12/17