Before her pickup screamed through a red light and slammed into Henry F. McCain's motorcycle, Brittany Elizabeth Miles looked into his eyes.
The 21-year-old said she tried to swerve around him, but he turned the same way. Miles, now charged with McCain's murder, insisted his death was an accident.
Just three days after the May 10 incident, in a recorded jail phone call with the father of her 2-year-old son, Miles tried to explain why she escaped from the back of a cruiser, why she nearly killed Pasco sheriff's Deputy Ashley Grady as she fled and what happened in the moments before and after her truck collided with McCain, who died in the middle of U.S. 19 as she sped away.
Miles told Oliver Bevins Jr. she ran because she was scheduled to be in court that morning to discuss a case plan related to their son.
Although during the call Miles often cried and apologized to Bevins for what happened, she took almost no responsibility and showed little remorse.
"They can't do this to me, you know what I'm saying?" she said. "You know the charges that they have against me?"
"I know," Bevins replied.
"Like, f------ murder?" she said. "I didn't do it on purpose."
The recording and documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times reveal new details on how Miles escaped the cruiser and what happened during the chase, which hit speeds of 100 mph.
"I'm not going to jail," Grady said Miles had shouted at her as the deputy hung from the driver's side window of the speeding pickup, records show. "I have a court date at 9 for my son, and you're not getting in my vehicle. You're not stopping me."
• • •
After Miles left the Brass Flamingo, a Port Richey strip club where she worked as a dancer, at least three people called 911 in the early hours of May 10 to report her driving erratically in a red Dodge Ram.
Just after 7 a.m., Grady pulled Miles over on suspicion of DUI. Grady's partner, Deputy Christopher Greifenberger, witnessed Miles fail at least three field sobriety tests.
When Grady handcuffed Miles behind her back, she noted how thin the suspect's wrists were. The deputy placed her pinky between the metal and Miles' skin, and then cinched the cuffs down to the point that they were "tight, but comfortable." Grady then double locked the cuffs, which prevents the shackles from continuing to tighten on a suspect's wrists. It's a common practice in law enforcement.
Beneath the driver's seat of the truck, the deputies discovered pills hidden in a Marlboro cigarette package. Miles told them the pills were Advil. Though the tablets did not initially test positive for a narcotic, Grady ordered the Dodge to be impounded because of the potentially illegal contraband. The pills were later lost during the chase.
As deputies searched the truck, Greifenberger spoke several times to Miles as she waited in the back of a cruiser. Miles asked if she would get into trouble for missing her 9 a.m. court appearance. The deputy told her that he had called her mother, Hernando sheriff's Deputy Debra Miles, who said she was on her way to the courthouse to tell the judge her daughter wasn't coming.
After each conversation, Grady said, she thought she had rolled up the cruiser's rear window.
But Miles somehow freed one hand from the cuffs, apparently reached through the window to open the door, sprinted to her truck and peeled out as Grady leaped onto the running board and tried to pull the keys out of the ignition. With one hand on the steering wheel and her elbow on Miles' neck, the deputy ordered her to stop. Miles refused, saying again and again that she wasn't going to jail.
When the deputy looked at the speedometer, it read between 73 and 74 mph. As the truck crossed three lanes of traffic and a median, Grady said, Miles jerked the wheel to try to sling her off.
"Deputy Grady stated she thought the fight for her life lasted approximately 15 seconds," a report said, "whereas Miles eventually shoved her out of the truck window" onto U.S. 19.
Grady, who suffered a broken leg, is now working light duty on a desk job. Miles — also charged with attempted murder — told Bevins that what happened to Grady was the deputy's fault.
"As far as the deputy, you know, she jumped on the truck, you know what I mean? It's not like I hit her. She fell off. . . . Like it was her decision to jump on the truck," she said. "She just jumped on the f------ truck while I was f------ driving. I mean, what was I supposed to do?"
• • •
As Greifenberger and Pasco Deputy Thomas Smith pursued her, Miles swerved around vehicles and ran red lights, barely missing vehicles as she raced by. At one point, Smith said, he saw her try to make a cell phone call.
A quarter of a mile from U.S. 19 and County Line Road, Miles' truck was tearing north at 100 mph. She slid into the left lane and slowed to 60 mph as she approached the crossroads. Then, suddenly, she saw McCain's motorcycle.
"I tried to swerve around him. I tried to do everything to avoid him, but he just, you know what I mean? We both tried to miss each other, and because we tried to miss each other we ran into each other," she said. "We made eye contact and everything."
Bevins told her that conflicted with what he had seen in the news. "As far as witnesses, I'm sure they only saw what they saw," he said. "But, like, they're just saying that you just clearly just went straight and ran him over."
"That's bulls---," she replied.
• • •
After the crash, she veered into the grass, smashed into a street sign and plowed into a culvert, but kept going. With her truck's front two tires blown, she drove a mile north at 15 to 25 mph before stopping.
Miles said she didn't stop because the airbag had struck her so hard she was disoriented.
Her assertion contradicts both Greifenberger's report and what a witness saw. Jonathan R. Neely told deputies he watched Miles continue accelerating after the crash and stop only when her truck was disabled.
Miles then hopped out and ran. Greifenberger chased her for several hundred feet and yelled for her to stop. She looked back at him, but kept running. The deputy eventually tackled Miles, but she still fought.
Three times, he said, he pushed her in the back of the head to prevent her from standing up. After the struggle, the deputy pulled her left wrist, which was still cuffed, and locked her hands behind her back.
Neely watched the deputy escort her back to his cruiser.
"She had a real distant look in her eyes, in her face" he said. "She stared out into space, like she was lost."
In her phone conversation with Bevins, Miles said she was going through a painful detoxification in jail. After an automobile accident two years earlier, friends say, Miles had become addicted to prescription pain pills.
Minutes after her arrest, Miles told a paramedic she hadn't taken oxycodone in two days. But she later admitted to a nurse that she had taken two of the pills that morning.
Just after 11 a.m., a deputy overheard Miles tell the nurse at Oak Hill Hospital why she fled.
"I was under the influence. She was trying to arrest me," Miles said of Grady. "I had to get to court so I don't lose my child, so I left and got into an accident."
Miles repeatedly struggled to stay awake and drifted in and out of sleep at the hospital. Later, when a deputy escorted Miles to the bathroom, she stumbled because of her shackles. The deputy told her to take smaller steps.
"Brittany then began to walk on tiptoes," the document said, "and began to giggle and laugh."
More than once, Miles told the deputy why she tried to escape.
"I ran for my son, so I wouldn't lose him," she said. "I guess now I lost him anyway."
Staff photojournalist Will Vragovic contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.