Pinellas law enforcement officers arrested 69 people and impounded 23 vehicles in a crackdown on street racing this weekend led by the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Officers responded to a parking lot at 1101 Roosevelt Blvd. about 10:45 p.m. Saturday night. They had learned that people were planning to drive “doughnuts” in the parking lot and participate in other “dangerous street racing activity” before taking over other major Pinellas intersections, according to a St. Petersburg police news release.
Law enforcement officers in more than 50 patrol cars from the St. Petersburg Police Department, the Pinellas Park Police Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Highway Patrol surrounded and shut down the event.
“This was an opportunity for us to make a statement to the street racing community that we’re going to have zero tolerance,” Sgt. Michael Schade of the St. Petersburg Police Department’s traffic unit said at a Monday news conference. “Through our investigative techniques, we’ll continue to do what we do to discover these things before they take place and try to prevent them.”
St. Petersburg police vowed renewed efforts to crack down on street racing after authorities said a motorcyclist going more than 100 mph hit and killed 13-year-old Ethan Martin at an event earlier this year. The boy’s father, 35-year-old Johnny Julio Martin, was arrested on a charge of child neglect for bringing his son to the event, police said.
Police arrested the motorcyclist, 21-year-old Carlos Fernandez, on felony charges of vehicular homicide, culpable negligence manslaughter and reckless driving causing serious bodily harm, as well as misdemeanor charges of street racing and operating a motorcycle without an endorsement. Police also arrested the motorcycle’s owner, 39-year-old Allan Boreland Jr., on a charge of culpable negligence manslaughter.
Fernandez and Martin have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. Court records indicate that prosecutors dropped the manslaughter charge against Boreland late last month.
On Saturday, police responded to the parking lot on Roosevelt Boulevard where dozens of people had already gathered for a street racing event. Police said many of them were not locals.
Police arrested both adults and juveniles on felony charges that included fleeing and eluding and child endangerment after parents brought their infant daughter and 3-year-old son to the event. Law enforcement also arrested people on misdemeanor charges of street racing, driving with a suspended license and obstruction.
Law enforcement also handed out 74 citations, police said.
“We strongly suggest those of you that have engaged in this activity and might have plans to do so in the future, that you find a legal, more safe activity,” St. Petersburg police Assistant Chief Antonio Gilliam said at Monday’s news conference. “Because this activity will land you in jail or in prison.”
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Members of the public can report street racing events and participants to the Florida Highway Patrol by emailing StopRacing@flhsmv.gov.