After reading about Barbara Bush's visit to the bay area in the paper Friday, Daniel Hendricks got an uncontrollable urge to deliver her a message: Saddam Hussein plans to strike at midnight.
With that troubling thought in his head, the 34-year-old Avon Park man wrestled the keys to a battered 1975 Chevy from his father and began a mission across three counties.
Nothing was stopping him in his quest to see Mrs. Bush.
Not speed limits or traffic laws, sheriff's deputies or sirens. He forged onward through Highlands and Polk counties, undaunted by the emergency-lane traffic barriers he sent flying over the heads of startled motorists on Interstate 4.
Even drivers who got in his way didn't stop him, said Tampa Police Officer Scott Guffey.
Hendricks told Guffey hours after a chase that at times topped speeds of 100 mph: "I bumped them in the rear end and if they didn't get out of the way I pushed them off the road. . . . Something had to be done because Saddam Hussein is invading at midnight. I had to tell the first lady."
Hendricks collided with an unknown number of cars in early-morning traffic. Four drivers lost control along a route from Plant City to downtown Tampa, police said.
Surprisingly, there were no serious injuries.
"I'm relieved," said Rollo Hendricks, who said his son had stopped taking medication for what he called paranoid behavior.
"He had to do something before the authorities would do anything with him," the elder Hendricks said. "Now they will."
Daniel Hendricks told Tampa police he stopped in Polk County to steal beer for his trip, then was stopped by a deputy. As the deputy examined his driver's license, Hendricks floored the accelerator, he told Guffey. He said he never saw that deputy again.
Outside Plant City he bumped into the back of Melissa Johnston's red Corvette, and the startled Land O' Lakes woman briefly chased him at speeds up to 100 mph, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. He outraced her.
About 9:30 a.m., in the westbound lane of I-4, he smacked into a Midport, N.Y., man's car, sending it spinning out of control onto the shoulder. The driver, Paul J. Fisher, was not injured, troopers said.
The third driver to be hit was Marilyn Tario, 38, of Lakeland, who was driving to her Tampa Lexus dealer. Hendricks appeared behind her in the emergency lane, smacking his car into the orange striped sawhorses that blocked his route, she said.
Suddenly, his car was looming in her rearview mirror. He rammed into the Lexus.
"I tried honking the horn, like help! help!" she said. He hit her again and her car spun off the road, narrowly missing a guardrail. "I hate driving in Tampa," she said.
Then, police said, Hendricks ran Marion Milham, 17, of Lancaster, Pa., off the road just east of the Ashley Street exit on I-275.
Hendricks barrelled on, past the exit that would have taken him to Mrs. Bush's luncheon at the Tampa Hyatt Regency Hotel. He had decided to intercept her at a Clearwater dinner, police said.
Finally, almost five hours after he began his journey, Hendricks was arrested.
"This is how," said Guffey. "He's been hitting cars since Avon Park, stealing beer, bumping cars off the road, running from police. And he stops on Dale Mabry for a red light. He stops for a red light."
Hendricks, who appeared to be drunk when he was arrested, did not meet Mrs. Bush. He was, however, scheduled to receive a visit from her Secret Service bodyguards, Guffey said.
He was being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on three counts of aggravated battery with a motor vehicle.