A rookie deputy's failure to secure a drunken driving suspect in the back seat of a cruiser left a 66-year-old motorcyclist dead, the officer hospitalized with a broken leg and other injuries - and a litany of unanswered questions. The public deserves some prompt answers from Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, not a wall of silence.
Brittany Miles, a 21-year-old single mother, exotic dancer and daughter of Hernando County deputies, faces felony murder and other charges in connection with her escape and a chase that resulted in a fatal crash. Henry McCain of Spring Hill was killed when Miles' pickup truck, fleeing Pasco deputies, ran a red light at U.S. 19 and County Line Road and slammed into McCain's motorcycle at 70 mph.
The Pasco Sheriff's Office refuses to say how a handcuffed Miles freed herself and fled from the rear of Deputy Ashley Grady's patrol car as the deputy sat in the front seat writing her arrest report. Miles' ability to escape custody, get back into her own vehicle and flee the scene - even with Grady hanging halfway through the truck's driver-side window to try to thwart the escape - resulted in McCain's death eight miles away. The public is owed an explanation.
Grady is fortunate to have escaped more serious injuries considering she was dragged from the pickup truck across three lanes and the median of U.S. 19. But it is how she performed prior to the escape that is under scrutiny. Properly securing a suspect into custody should be police work 101 to minimize safety risks to the arresting officer and to the public at large. Grady, a deputy for 10 months, previously had to be instructed by superiors to be less distracted by her surroundings and to become more acclimated to completing traffic citations.
Among the unanswered questions the Pasco sheriff needs to answer:
- Was Miles handcuffed appropriately with her hands behind her back?
- Was the rear door or window of the cruiser left open?
- Did Miles reveal her parents were Hernando County deputies to try to gain better treatment? Did Grady oblige?
- Could the chase after Miles escaped have been handled better?
Henry McCain's survivors deserve those answers. So does the public. Nocco, sheriff for just 11 days before the accident, should opt for transparency rather than stalling and remaining silent while awaiting an investigation. The public must have confidence that its sworn law officers are trained properly and will act accordingly to protect the community's safety, particularly when the suspect appears to be an inebriated young woman whose parents are deputies in a neighboring county.