Thursday, April 19, 2018
Public safety

Family of slain motorcyclist gets settlement from Pasco Sheriff's Office

NEW PORT RICHEY — The family of Henry McCain, a 67-year-old motorcyclist killed by a suspect during a high-speed pursuit, has reached a settlement with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office for $175,000.

"You have an innocent victim who has passed away," said Jeremiah Hawkes, chief of the management services bureau at the Sheriff's Office.

Just after 7 a.m. on May 10, 2011, deputies found a drug-addicted, 21-year-old exotic dancer named Brittany Miles passed out behind the wheel of her pickup on U.S. 19 in Hudson, authorities said. During the DUI stop, Miles managed to escape a deputy's cruiser by slipping one hand out of her handcuffs and reaching through a window left rolled down, authorities said. Miles ran to her pickup and screeched out onto U.S. 19, with Pasco Deputy Ashley Grady clinging onto the side of the truck, trying to get Miles to stop. At more than 70 mph, Miles flung Grady off the truck and sent the deputy rolling onto the highway, authorities said. Grady suffered a broken leg and later was suspended for five days without pay for violating agency regulations.

Miles barreled north on U.S. 19, and at County Line Road she rammed into McCain, a husband and grandfather. A toxicology report said Miles had oxycodone and alprazolam, the generic form of Xanax, in her system. She also told a deputy she'd consumed seven alcoholic drinks before she was pulled over.

Because the pursuit spanned two counties, there are two sets of criminal cases winding their way through the court system. Miles faces first-degree murder and other charges in Hernando, as well as attempted murder and other charges in Pasco.

McCain's family did not file a lawsuit against the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, but their attorney contacted the agency to work out a settlement. Under Florida law, a government agency's liability is limited to $200,000 unless the Legislature specifically authorizes a larger amount.

"I think it's good for all concerned that it has settled," said Hawkes, noting the agency's legal fees could have exceeded $100,000 if there had been a lawsuit that went to trial.

McCain's family and their attorney did not return calls Thursday. In previous interviews, however, McCain's widow, Anita McCain, said she wanted answers: "We believe really strongly this shouldn't have happened."

The couple's daughter, Kellie McCain, told the Times last year that the Sheriff's Office should have called off its pursuit of Miles.

"High-speed chases kill people," Kellie McCain said, "and that's what happened."

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said the settlement is not an indicator that the agency did anything wrong. "We did the right thing," Nocco said.

At the time of the incident, the Sheriff's Office policy left pursuits up to the discretion of the deputy. Examples of accepted reasons for pursuits were an "incident involving imminent death or serious injury" and "a felony in progress."

Weeks after Miles' escape and McCain's death, the agency revised its policy. The pursuit remains up to the deputy's discretion, but the policy says the chase should only take place when "the danger to the public, the deputies involved and the occupants of the fleeing vehicle, that is created by the pursuit, is significantly less than the immediate or potential danger to the public, should the suspect remain at large."

Under either policy, letting Miles go would be a difficult call, said Robert J. Diemer, the director of graduate studies in criminal justice for Saint Leo University and a retired law enforcement officer. He noted Miles was an escaped prisoner who tried to kill a deputy, and that she was intoxicated and speeding.

"If the officer didn't pursue and she wound up killing someone, the question would have been, 'Why didn't they pursue her?' " Diemer said. "It's a no-win situation."

Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

Comments
Firefighters battle apartment complex fire in Tampa

Firefighters battle apartment complex fire in Tampa

TAMPA — Firefighters were battling a blaze at Captiva Club Apartments on Thursday night, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.According to video taken at the scene, the roof of one of the apartment buildings at 4401 Club Captiva Dr. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant in Gilchrist County

Two Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant in Gilchrist County

Two Gilchrist County sheriff’s deputies were shot and killed at a restaurant about 3 p.m. Thursday.The deputies were at Ace China restaurant in downtown Trenton when a man shot them through the restaurant’s window, a Sheriff’s Office statement said.A...
Updated: 2 hours ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevrolet Camaro south on Interstate 275...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

Police: Knife-wielding burglar breaks into house, says ‘I’m the cops’

LARGO — Detectives are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man who broke into a home early Thursday morning and confronted the owners with a knife.The incident took place about 3:40 a.m. at a townhouse at 7360 Ulmerton Road, according to Largo...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

Deputies: Man broke into house, set it on fire and stole their dog

SEMINOLE — A Seminole man was arrested on allegations that he burglarized a home, set it on fire and stole the homeowner’s dog, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Austin Lang, 19, now faces numerous charges of burglary, arson and poss...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies: 15-year-old threatened attack on River Ridge High School

Deputies: 15-year-old threatened attack on River Ridge High School

NEW PORT RICHEY—A 15-year-old student was arrested Wednesday on allegations that he threatened to stage a shooting attack on River Ridge High School, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.The student attended Schwettman Education Center, dep...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies: 19-month-old child hospitalized after being found in pond

Deputies: 19-month-old child hospitalized after being found in pond

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 19-month-old child was taken to the hospital Thursday after being found in a pond, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies were called at 12:31 p.m. to the 4700 block of Crestknoll Drive.An adult was watching the c...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

Teen, 16, walks into path of motorcycle while crossing Ulmerton Road

PINELLAS PARK — A 16-year-old was injured Thursday morning after being struck by a motorcycle on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place at about 6 a.m. Austin Montgomery, 23, was riding his 2011 Suzuki motorcycle ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

Retiring Tampa cop’s son pleads guilty to hazing in death of FSU student

TAMPA — A Leon County judge sentenced the son of former Tampa Assistant Police Chief Marc Hamlin on Monday to 60 days in jail for a role in the November hazing death of a 20-year-old Florida State University student. Christopher Hamlin, 20, was one o...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

Teen, 16, killed in Hernando crash; 17-year-old critically injured

BROOKSVILLE — A 16-year-old boy was killed and a 17-year-old boy critically injured after their car was struck by a pick-up truck at the intersection of U.S. 19 and Country Road on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The cras...
Published: 04/18/18
Updated: 04/19/18