ST. PETERSBURG — The woman mistakenly shot in the head while a team of bail agents tried to apprehend a bail jumper in a McDonald's drive-through last November is suing the man who shot her.
In her suit, filed Friday, she also blames AAA Kyle's Kwik Bail Bonding, Inc. and its owner, Walter Kyles, 44, alleging that its bondsmen were "not qualified or fit to be bail bond agents, had a propensity for violence, and were untrained and unskilled in proper procedures."
A criminal case against the bondsman who shot her, Darrell Ingram, is still in the works, said Mark McGarry, felony division director at the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.
"Now we're down to, at the very best, a misdemeanor," McGarry said. "That's as much as we can charge."
Ingram, 46, could face a charge of culpable negligence, which means he showed reckless disregard for human life. It is punishable by up to a year in jail.
Vonceia Welch, a 29-year-old mother of four, had been sitting in the passenger seat of a white sedan in the drive-through the afternoon of Nov. 11. Behind her sat Deveon Stokes, 26, who had skipped out on his five-figure bail on a charge of cocaine possession.
Two cars pulled up and boxed the sedan in, police said. They said Ingram introduced himself and stuck a .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol through the cracked passenger window.
Panicked, 26-year-old driver Joshua Allonso Malone hit the gas and lurched into another car. That's when a shot was fired — an accident, Ingram told police.
Welch says she suffered "severe and permanent injury."
"All we want from this case is justice for Vonceia, for the negligent acts by Mr. Ingram and Kyle's Kwik Bail Bonds," said her attorney, Ernesto Santos of Jay Halpern and Associates. "We think she was an innocent victim in this situation that could have easily been prevented."
He said information will emerge about the company's tactics and how "they were not really well equipped to handle this type of apprehension."
Bail agents have leeway to use reasonable and necessary force when needed to apprehend fugitives, as McGarry said was the case in November.
"Whether or not the discharge through the window was intentional or not, that's kind of iffy," he said. "Clearly I don't think he meant to shoot the girl in the head."
McGarry said prosecutors are also looking into whether all bondsmen involved in the "cowboy-esque" takedown were licensed.
A woman who answered the phone for AAA Kyle's Kwik Bail Bonding on Wednesday declined to comment on Welch's case. The lawsuit also names the company's insurer.
Ingram, reached at Setfree Bail Bonds in Tampa, where he is CEO and president, also declined to comment.
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Santos said Welch has undergone several medical procedures and is working with physical therapists. "Vonceia is doing as well as a person can. She's a fighter," Santos said. "She's in the middle of her recovery."
Contact Claire McNeill at email@example.com or (727) 893-8321.