Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater police fired shots at fleeing hit-and-run driver

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater police officer was injured Friday during a chase in which police fired shots at a fleeing sport utility vehicle alongside a busy Clearwater street.

The incident began at 12:51 p.m. when a witness called 911 to report that a driver had hit a hydrant and a tensioning cable at Lakeview Road and Highland Avenue, then sped away and was driving erratically, police said.

Three officers stopped the SUV outside the Charles R. Fagan CPA firm at 1408 Court St., but the driver accelerated forward, striking Officer Darcy Hunt in the leg, police said.

Both Hunt and Cpl. Steve Squillante fired at the SUV, police said, but the driver steered over a low wall and behind a building to escape, blowing out the vehicle's tires and tearing off its oil pan and front bumper.

The driver continued to the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Franklin Street, east of downtown Clearwater, before jumping out of the SUV to run. Officers caught her there.

Shortly after 1 p.m., crime scene tape surrounded the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Franklin Street. A gray SUV with flattened tires, a detached bumper and lazily moving windshield wipers was in the intersection.

The suspect — Nicole Syphers, 24, of Clearwater — sat handcuffed on the curb. Her face appeared blackened and one eye seemed swollen.

Hunt was taken to Morton Plant Hospital and later released.

After giving police a statement, the 911 caller, 49-year-old Martin Planty, and his fiance, Lori Carpenter, returned to the scene and recounted how they were leaving a Walmart in Largo when they came upon two people rocking the SUV to free it from the tensioning cable.

As soon as the SUV's front tires were back on the ground, they said, the driver sped off, nearly hitting one of the good Samaritans.

The Clearwater couple said they stayed on the phone with police while following the vehicle as it blew through stop signs and red lights and nudged other drivers off the road.

At one point, they said, the woman pulled into a Chevron gas station, ducked down in her seat for several minutes, then accelerated forward into a red Dodge Charger. She sped off again as the driver got out to confront her, they said.

"We thought people were going to die," said Carpenter, 43.

Planty and Carpenter said their roughly 5-mile ordeal ended after they managed to flag down one of the officers involved in the traffic stop.

According to the couple, Syphers "willingly" got out of the disabled vehicle after an officer fired a round into her passenger side window. A police spokesman said he could not confirm that point, as authorities were still reconstructing the scene.

Syphers faces multiple charges, including aggravated battery on an officer, leaving the scene of a crash and fleeing police.

Pinellas County jail records show that Clearwater authorities arrested Syphers in March 2012 on charges of eluding an officer and violating her probation on two convictions for using fraud to obtain oxycodone or other controlled substances.

Times staff writer Piper Castillo contributed to this report.

Clearwater police fired shots at fleeing hit-and-run driver 08/16/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco tax roll shows increase, but so, too, are budget requests

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County's tax roll grew by more than 5 percent in 2016, but it's a figure that likely would require local government budget writers to trim proposed spending requests.

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
New construction accounted for $693.5 million in taxable property values being added to the Pasco County tax rolls in 2016, according to preliminary estimates released by Property Appraiser Gary Joiner. Overall, the property tax roll grew more than 5 percent, according to the preliminary numbers.

  2. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  3. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  4. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  5. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.