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Report: Spikes malfunctioned in fatal chase

(ran PC edition of PASCO TIMES)

Hernando County sheriff's deputies acted within agency guidelines in a chase that led to a fatal wreck earlier this month, an administrative report finds.

But some equipment from the incident malfunctioned and should no longer be used.

Released Wednesday, the report focuses on road spikes intended to puncture the tires of a car driven by William Lovett Jr., 23, as he fled from deputies.

"Basically, we found no policy violation," sheriff's spokesman Lt. Joe Paez said. "But that particular type of stop stick has been taken off the street."

The device, a long strip with retractable spikes, did not work as intended and failed to prevent the fatal accident near the intersection of California Street and Wiscon Road.

The report also states that Deputy Rob Santoro acted properly when he chased Lovett, 16124 Melbourne St., after trying to pull Lovett over for speeding. Lovett slammed into a pickup truck and died.

The incident began shortly after midnight on Nov. 9 when Santoro clocked Lovett's Ford station wagon traveling 76 mph in a 55 mph zone on Spring Hill Drive.

Santoro flipped on his lights and started following Lovett, who sped up, authorities said.

Lovett ran a red light and turned north onto California Street, where he continued swerving and accelerated to 100 mph, authorities said.

Lovett drove over the metal spikes, which did nothing, authorities said.

He drove a little farther, then slammed into a Ford pickup truck, injuring two teens.

Lovett died at the scene.

Authorities said Lovett's license had been suspended in July 2000 for failure to complete a substance abuse course.

His station wagon smelled of alcohol, and deputies found a beer can in a 7-11 bag, which they believe was between Lovett's legs as he drove.

"If the spikes had worked properly, it would have been a different story," Paez said.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.