TAMPA — Travis Zachary Garrett, the man accused of ramming a car into a Hillsborough County sheriff’s patrol cruiser, killing Cpl. Brian LaVigne, will not face the death penalty.
Garrett will instead face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is found guilty of first-degree murder.
The office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said Wednesday they had decided against seeking capital punishment in the case, which has already seen testimony and evidence to suggest Garrett suffers from mental illness.
“We charged Garrett with first-degree murder because this was a deliberate, pre-meditated attack on law enforcement,” read a statement from Warren’s office. “However, that fact alone doesn’t justify the death penalty under Florida law — and after careful consideration of all the relevant factors, we’ve determined that capital punishment is not appropriate.”
Garrett, 29, remains jailed pending trial. In a January detention hearing, a judge heard testimony that Garrett had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Three years before the fatal crash, Garrett was accused of fighting with law enforcement officers in Georgia when they tried to stop him from walking on a highway, according to court records. The case was dismissed after Garrett was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and agreed to participate in a mental health program.
On Jan. 11, Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies were called to the Paddock Club apartments off Lumsden Road in Brandon, where it was reported that Garrett was walking around naked, breaking things and behaving erratically. Garrett first ignored deputies, then fought with them, according to court testimony. He endured Taser jolts before driving off in a Nissan Maxima.
The car rammed through an iron gate, then fled south on Brandon Parkway before turning west on Lumsden Road. LaVigne, who had not yet joined the pursuit, was parked on the roadside. His fellow deputies watched as the Nissan plowed into the side of his patrol car. The 54-year-old, who was a shift away from retirement after a 30-year career, was later declared dead at a hospital.
Garrett was also hospitalized after the crash. A medical test indicated he had cocaine and marijuana in his body at the time of the crash, according to court documents. In addition to murder, Garrett faces a litany of other charges, including DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide.