The high-speed pursuit of a felon with a history of dangerous driving ended in west Tampa late Wednesday, when the fleeing car smashed into a Tampa family's Buick, leaving one person dead and two injured.
Police say the impact killed Buick driver George Galindo, 50, and injured his brother and sister-in-law, who had left St. Joseph's Hospital, where they visited the Galindo brothers' ailing father.
The white Buick overturned and hit a black Saturn, leaving that driver with minor injuries and major damage to his car.
After the crash, suspect Dwayne Devon Brown abandoned the red Mitsubishi he had been driving and tried to run from the scene, police said, but officers caught and arrested him. He faces a dozen charges, all but one of them felonies.
Temple Terrace police defended the decision to chase Brown _ even though officers initially wanted to pull him over only for traffic violations, including having an expired tag and a modified muffler.
Tampa police and Hillsborough sheriff's deputies do not chase suspects for traffic violations. And Wednesday night, Tampa police refused Temple Terrace's request for help with the pursuit after Brown drove into the city of Tampa.
"It is truly unfortunate that Mr. Galindo was killed and others were hurt," said Temple Terrace Deputy Chief Patricia Powers. "But the facts of the case warranted him being apprehended. This was in line with our policy."
Brown, 27, was initially seen at 10:36 p.m. on Busch Boulevard near 56th Street in Temple Terrace. An officer saw the Mitsubishi cut across two lanes of traffic and then noticed it had a modified muffler, according to a criminal affidavit.
Powers said the officer also discovered the tag on the car had expired. The officer tried to pull Brown over, but Brown drove through a Walgreen's parking lot and turned his headlights off as he got back onto 56th Street, according to officials.
He drove north in the southbound lanes, prompting the officer to warn dispatchers and other officers that Brown might be drunk, Powers said.
Two more Temple Terrace officers joined in the chase, turning their emergency lights on as they drove south down 56th Street toward Busch Boulevard. Brown sped toward the officers, forcing them off the road, Powers said.
"At that point, it became aggravated assault on an officer," Powers said.
The officers chased after Brown as he sped west into Tampa, officials said.
Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said dispatchers there got a call at 10:39 p.m. from Temple Terrace seeking help with the pursuit, but the Temple Terrace dispatcher said the car was not stolen and that Brown's violation was "just traffic."
"We don't pursue on traffic," McElroy said. "We also don't pursue on DUI."
At 10:50 p.m. the Mitsubishi was going south on N Armenia Avenue at speeds estimated at 60 mph when it ran through a red light at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and slammed into Galindo's Buick, according to a Tampa Police report.
Galindo, a Cuba native who moved to Tampa a few years ago, died several hours later at St. Joseph's Hospital. His brother Jesus Santos Galindo, 61, of 1404 E 25th St., was taken to Tampa General Hospital. He remains there in critical condition.
His daughter Bianca Galindo, 21, said one of his lungs collapsed, and he has broken ribs. Bianca's mother, Odalis Galindo, 45, had surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital early Thursday to repair injuries to her arms. She is in fair condition.
"My mom is in a lot of pain," Bianca Galindo said. "This is very hard."
Jimmy Pancoast, 41, was stopped at the red light at Armenia Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard when the Mitsubishi hit Galindo's Buick. The Buick overturned and hit Pancoast's black Saturn. Next, the Mitsubishi and a Temple Terrace police car hit Pancoast's Saturn, too, he said.
"I live half a block away. I just went to Walgreens to get some milk," he said Thursday afternoon, after he was treated and released from Tampa General Hospital. "If they weren't pursuing that guy like that, this wouldn't have happened. It's ridiculous."
Powers said Temple Terrace follows the guidelines for chases as laid out by the Florida Sheriffs Association.
Alachua County Sheriff Stephen Oelrich, chairman of the association's auto safety committee, said the chase policy addresses various situations and factors to help agencies determine when it's appropriate _ and safe _ to pursue a suspect.
"The time of day, weather conditions, traffic congestion, all of that factors in," Oelrich said. "What we have to weigh is the danger of continuing the chase or letting the suspect's behavior continue."
He said that Brown is accused of trying to run into officers and force them off the road could be considered justification for continuing the chase.
Bianca Galindo said she doesn't blame Temple Terrace police, even though the chase did end in the death of her uncle, a father and husband known for his sense of humor.
"It was all his fault," she said of the suspect. "They did the right thing trying to catch him."
Brown, of 5105 N 11th St. in Tampa, faces 12 charges _ all but one of them felonies.
The charges from Temple Terrace are: aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer; aggravated fleeing that resulted in great bodily harm; driving without a license; and obstructing an officer without violence, jail records show.
The charges from Tampa are: vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of a fatal crash, two counts of reckless driving that resulted in serious injuries, and four counts of leaving the scene of a crash with injuries.
Thursday afternoon, Brown was being held in jail in lieu of $59,500 bail.
Brown has a criminal history that dates to 1994.
In March 1998, he was sentenced to five years and three months in prison for a 1994 Tampa manslaughter case, state corrections records show.
Also that year, he was sentenced to 19 months in prison for a January 1998 case that involved a stolen car and a police chase. Brown led Tampa police officers on a 15-minute chase through central Tampa that ended when Brown slammed a stolen Buick Riviera into a 79-year-old man's Toyota. Brown tried to run away, but an officer caught him a few blocks away.
Records show he was released from prison on March 1, 2001.
Bianca Galindo said she hopes this time, Brown goes back to jail and stays there.
"I would like to say to that man, you deserve everything you get, man. You are one of the most irresponsible persons I have ever heard of. Shame on you. Do you even know what you did to my family?"
Staff researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or svansicklersptimes.com.