Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police officer recounts how chase turned into Dougherty crime rampage

Zephyrhills police Officer Kevin Widener speaks at a press conference after the Dougherty siblings were arrested. “I just wanted to catch them before they hurt anybody,” he said.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Zephyrhills police Officer Kevin Widener speaks at a press conference after the Dougherty siblings were arrested. “I just wanted to catch them before they hurt anybody,” he said.

ZEPHYRHILLS — He heard the gunfire and thought his cruiser had been sprayed with bullets.

"Wow," Zephyrhills police Officer Kevin Widener, 32, thought to himself. "They're shooting at me."

It was 7 a.m. Aug. 2 and Widener was three hours into his regular shift. Widener, a newlywed and father to a 6-month-old daughter, was parked with his radar gun and clocked a white Subaru Impreza going 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. When he tried to pull it over, the car sped up. Soon, Widener found himself being shot at in a 100-mph chase that ended when his tire was blown out. This incident began an eight-day crime rampage by east Pasco siblings Lee-Grace Dougherty, 29, Dylan Dougherty, 26, and Ryan Dougherty, 21, who were caught Wednesday in Colorado during another shootout with law enforcement. The siblings are also accused of robbing a Georgia bank at gunpoint. They're being held in the Pueblo County jail.

While the siblings were being hunted by federal and local authorities, their faces plastered on billboards throughout the country, Widener prayed each night they wouldn't kill anyone. He feared the worst, but hoped they would be arrested without any officers or citizens injured. Lee-Grace was shot during her arrest and all three siblings suffered minor injuries after their car crashed, but Widener's hope came true — no others were hurt.

"I'm thankful," he said Thursday during a press conference with reporters outside his station in Zephyrhills. He's a local boy, the high school football quarterback, tall, broad-shouldered, piercing blue eyes, who enlisted in the Navy right after high school and joined the police force six years ago.

He said he always wanted to be a police officer. As a kid, he dressed up like one and had toy guns. He had never been shot at previously. The last time a gun was discharged during police activity in Zephyrhills was in the 1980s, when a gun went off as an officer wrestled with a suspect, said Chief David Shears.

Still, Widener often challenged himself to visualize what he would do if he was shot at: How would he react?

He stayed calm.

"Okay," he told himself as the chase began. "Let's get them."

His voice was steady as he spoke with a dispatcher as shots rang out. He tried to keep going even after his tire was shot out.

"I just wanted to catch them before they hurt anybody," he said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Correction

Zephyrhills police Officer Kevin Widener's name was misspelled in a previous version of this article.

Police officer recounts how chase turned into Dougherty crime rampage 08/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 7:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection

    Wildlife

    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  2. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Pasco commuters watch out: Broken water main restricts State Road 52

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  4. Police identify man who drove along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police have identified the Pinellas Park man who they said drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook on Thursday afternoon.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  5. Once trapped and wounded, manatee and calf return to the wild

    Wildlife

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The small crowd readied cameras and craned their necks, peering over heads and through bodies to try and catch a glimpse. Brittany Pharel, 10, wanted to see the hulking manatees, a mother and her calf, laid out on blue tarps Thursday along the edge of the Pithlachascotee River.

    Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo's associate veterinarian Lauren Smith, 33, examines the heart rate of a manatee calf named Cottee just before it was released into the waters of the Pithlachascotee River on Thursday. 
Cottee's mother Pascow was released at the same time in New Port Richey. 
The pair became stranded in May and the mother was found wounded. They needed to be rehabilitated before they could be released into open waters. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]