TAMPA — Officer Kiet Truong says the danger of dying didn't cross his mind until the next morning.
Truong, 32, was the Tampa police officer dragged and dropped from a speeding car late Sunday. Authorities blame Legrand Pratt, a career criminal they said stole the Corvette from a car lot during a test drive.
At a news conference Wednesday, Truong said his questioning of Pratt, 42, had been routine.
But then Pratt "got nervous," and reached for the ignition. The Corvette started rolling and Truong dove in.
Officer David Bradley, Truong's partner, reached to pull Truong away, but only touched Truong's dangling radio cord as the Corvette sped away.
The officers version of what happens next sounds like a screenplay from an action movie:
Truong's arm became pinned between the 240-pound driver and the steering wheel. Pratt jammed on the gas pedal.
Reaching for anything, Truong found the steering wheel with his free hand and both men struggled for control as the car soared down Beach Street.
Pratt tried to swerve into telephone poles and parked cars while Truong, most of his body exposed to the world whizzing by, tried desperately to keep the car in the middle of the road.
"I wasn't going to let go," he said. "I wasn't going let him hit a vehicle on the left side because I was going to be dead then, too."
Four blocks later, Truong isn't sure if he let go or if he was pushed out of the car. All he remembers is skidding across the pavement. "The whole thing was crazy," he said. "The worst 30 seconds of my life."
Pratt continued for about 2 miles before a police cruiser immobilized the car, forcing him to lose control and crash into a telephone pole. He was later charged with attempted homicide on a law enforcement officer, aggravated fleeing to elude and driving without a valid driver's license.
He also has an outstanding warrant for his arrest in York County, S.C., for "possession of a vehicle and breach of trust over $5,000," police said. He was held without bail at the Orient Road Jail.
Police said they will review the pursuit and Truong's actions, in keeping with department policy.
"Officers have to take calculated risks to control situations," said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis. "What he did was really heroic."
Casey Cora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386.