Saturday, November 18, 2017
Public safety

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

RECOMMENDED READING


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
On the night shift in Seminole Heights, Tampa police keep watch for a killer

On the night shift in Seminole Heights, Tampa police keep watch for a killer

TAMPATampa Police Lt. Gary Neal is almost halfway into his shift when the shots ring out.He jumps into his white 2016 Dodge Charger and races the few blocks from District 3 headquarters to the scene of a drive-by shooting in a city rattled by a strin...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Tampa couple recounts wrong-way DUI crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway

Tampa couple recounts wrong-way DUI crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway

TAMPA — Police arrested a 26-year-old man they say drove the wrong way while drunk and caused a multi-vehicle crash that injured several people late Friday on the Courtney Campbell Causeway.Collin John Cole faces two counts of driving under the influ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Boater missing in waters north of Bradenton, dog found alive

Boater missing in waters north of Bradenton, dog found alive

CORTEZ — The Coast Guard and others are scouring the waters near Mead Point, just inland from Anna Maria Island, for a 63-year-old boater who has been missing since Friday evening. Fraser Horne of Cortez left Egmont Key on his 30-foot boat, Golden Ru...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

Romano: Hunting for a deadly needle in the Seminole Heights haystack

During the day, you hear from the psychics and the kooks. The well-intentioned tipsters, and the unsolicited profilers. This is all part of serial killer spillover, a sort of cottage industry of macabre.It gets tougher at night when you’re hounded by...
Updated: 14 minutes ago

Possible wrong-way crash on Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday

TAMPA — A multi-vehicle crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway late Friday may have been caused by a driver traveling in the wrong direction, Tampa police said.The crash occurred in the eastbound lanes closer to the Tampa side of the causeway, near ...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17
Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

Tampa police investigate drive-by shooting in Seminole Heights

TAMPA — Police took one person into custody late Friday after a drive-by shooting ended in Seminole Heights.The incident, which unfolded about 11 p.m., did not appear to be related to the spate of other recent shootings in Seminole Heights that have ...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17

Man hit, killed while crossing U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor

PALM HARBOR — A pedestrian died after he was hit by a vehicle Friday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The man, who was not identified, was crossing U.S. 19 from west to east, north of Tampa Road in Palm Harbor about 8:30 p.m., troopers ...
Published: 11/17/17
19 digital billboards now spread word of reward in Seminole Heights killings

19 digital billboards now spread word of reward in Seminole Heights killings

TAMPA — To help spread the word about reward money offered in connection with four unsolved shooting deaths in Seminole Heights, two billboard companies have donated the use of a combined 19 digital billboards.On Thursday, police announced the reward...
Published: 11/17/17

Deputies: No injuries after reported gunshot near Seminole schools

SEMINOLE — Deputies are investigating a report of a gunshot that resulted in two schools being put on lockdown Friday morning. About 8:24 a.m., the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office received a call at Rita’s Italian Ice, 13147 86th Ave., in Seminole. ...
Published: 11/17/17
20 injured in fire at Pennsylvania senior living community

20 injured in fire at Pennsylvania senior living community

WEST CHESTER, Pa. — A massive fire at a senior living community in Pennsylvania injured at least 20 people and forced dozens more, many of whom were unable to walk, into the cold night air. Firefighters were still dousing hot spots Friday, even thoug...
Published: 11/17/17