Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Man who attacks Tampa police officer gets clotheslined by taxi driver as bystanders rush to help

TAMPA — Ray Freeman watched the police officer get knocked down through his cab's windshield, just a few feet away. Then he said he saw the man who attacked the officer reach for his holster.

"I was afraid he was going to take the officer's gun and kill him," said Freeman, 56, of Tampa.

The cabbie said he got out of his taxi, rushed over, stuck out his arm and clotheslined the man, knocking him onto N Himes Avenue across from Raymond James Stadium. So began a wild melee in the middle of Wednesday afternoon traffic as bystanders wrestled the officer's attacker to the ground and helped subdue him, according to Tampa police.

"It was a very physical altercation," said Tampa police spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

The incident started at 1:30 p.m. with a report of a disturbance at the Econo Lodge at 4732 N Dale Mabry Highway. Tampa police Officer Michael Collins found a man near Himes and Ohio Avenue who fit the description of the man from that report: Luis Manuel Vila III, 18.

Collins tried to question Vila, but police said he did not cooperate. The taxi driver said Villa wouldn't listen to the officer's orders, then threw up his fists and got in a fighting stance.

"You don't want this," Freeman recalled Vila saying. "Don't come up on me."

The officer then tried to shock Vila with his Taser. Vila dropped to one knee, the taxi driver said. But then he stood up and started punching the officer, Freeman said.

"I told you! I told you!" Vila screamed, according to the taxi driver.

Freeman parked his cab in the middle of northbound Himes and ran over to help. The taxi driver said he held Villa down by the neck as they exchanged punches.

Police said another bystander, Dolores Lyle, who was making a delivery nearby, grabbed Vila by his feet and sat on his legs because he was kicking. Freeman said another man also came over and helped him hold down Vila's chest, though that man was not mentioned in the police account.

"I'm screaming to the police officer, 'Shoot him, shoot him!' because I'm afraid this guy's going to get up and kill us," Freeman said. He said the officer, with cuts over his eye and lip, had them turn Vila onto his stomach and then handcuffed him.

"Okay, okay, I give, I give," Freeman heard Vila say. "He showed no reaction, he stopped trying to fight."

Vila, of 11210 Caravan Court in Tampa, was arrested on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence, battery and burglary.

Collins, who has been on the force for 27 years, was taken to the hospital to get checked out. Freeman said he saw the officer faint while speaking to paramedics. Freeman said his face was sore but he was not seriously injured.

In a statement, Tampa police Chief Eric Ward commended those who helped the officer.

"It is gratifying to see citizens willing to get involved," the chief said. "It's a miracle that no one was seriously injured. This could have ended tragically. Officer Collins showed tremendous restraint, and I can't say enough about the two citizens who aided one of our officers. They were not afraid to get involved. This is a true example of law enforcement and the community working together to keep our city safe."

Comments
‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

‘All I see is fire’: 911 calls released from Florida casino boat fire

PORT RICHEY — The first call came into emergency dispatch at 4 p.m. on Sunday from shore, reporting a ‘giant’ boat on fire in the Pithlachascotee River."It’s urgent," the caller said.Others followed quickly, one woman crying as she described from her...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

Gibsonton man faces 50 counts of child porn

GIBSONTON — A 46-year-old man was arrested Wednesday by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents on 50 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of promoting a sexual performance by a child.Authorities said they received several tip...
Updated: 7 hours ago

He still has nightmares: Deckhand recalls prior casino boat fire

Cory Byrd said he still has nightmares about the smoke. In them, he is back in the cabin of the Express Shuttle II, scrambling to reach the white rectangle of an open door. The smoke was so thick, he said, you could barely see an outstretched hand. ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

Pinellas sheriff, feds announce changes to controversial immigrant detention policy

LARGO — For years, county sheriffs in the United States have faced a quandary when asked by federal officials to hold undocumented immigrants in their local jails. They could continue to hold them for up to two days past the time they were legally fr...
Updated: 8 hours ago
McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

McDonald’s manager gets ovation at Seminole Heights investigation ceremony

TAMPA — Delanda Walker, the McDonald’s employee who gave police the tip that led to an arrest in the Seminole Heights slayings, received a standing ovation Wednesday during a ceremony thanking citizens who helped in the investigation.Mayor Bob Buckho...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

Casino company set to sail again Thursday after deadly boat fire

PORT RICHEY — Tropical Breeze Casino Cruz said it plans to reopen on Thursday and resume shuttling passengers back out to its gambling vessel in the Gulf of Mexico three days after a boat fire forced 50 passengers and crew to abandon ship.The 72-foot...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Man robbed while responding to Craigslist sex ad

Man robbed while responding to Craigslist sex ad

HOLIDAY — A man responding to a Craiglist ad for sex was instead robbed by the boyfriend of the woman he was meeting, sheriff’s deputies said. Robert Roser, 39, of Holiday claimed he was part of a police sting operation before taking $60 and two blue...
Published: 01/17/18

Teen, 14, arrested on charges of bringing loaded gun to Plant City High School

PLANT CITY — A 14-year-old high school student was accused of bringing a loaded gun to campus on Tuesday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies arrested the boy after 3 p.m. at Plant City High School after administrators foun...
Published: 01/17/18

Plant City family attacked, robbed during early-morning home invasion

PLANT CITY — A 63-year-old woman was unloading items from her car when two men forced her into home at gun-point and threatened to kill her and her family, according to Plant City police. The woman arrived to her home on the 2700 block of Barrett Ave...
Published: 01/17/18
Deputies release name of homicide victim in Tampa’s Grant Park neighborhood

Deputies release name of homicide victim in Tampa’s Grant Park neighborhood

Hillsborough County deputies are conducting a homicide investigation after a man was found dead in the Grant Park area of Tampa late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning.Deputies say 22-year-old Elijah Moore’s was found in the 3700 block of Carroway St...
Published: 01/17/18