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Clearwater Beach driver: 'My intentions were to take my own life'

LARGO — Ryan Michael Stiles said he stuck close to the dunes and blared his horn as he drove his Jeep Cherokee along Clearwater Beach last week because he didn't want to hurt anyone.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Police chase on sands of Clearwater Beach lands on Facebook Live.

His real intention, he said, was to ultimately end his own life — either at the hands of police officers or by crashing his Jeep.

"I was hoping it was going to end a lot differently," said Stiles, 27, from the Pinellas County Jail on Tuesday. "My intentions were to take my own life."

That's not how the July 20 incident ended. Instead, he surrendered after the harrowing beach chase and is now being held in the county jail without bail. That's where he spoke to a Tampa Bay Times reporter.

Stiles is accused of driving his SUV onto Clearwater Beach and smashing coolers, beach chairs and umbrellas while he swigged Canadian Mist whiskey and streamed the whole thing on Facebook Live.

Clearwater police followed him from S Myrtle Avenue and Court Street, over the Memorial Causeway and onto the beach before his SUV stopped at the water's edge near Caladesi Island and surrendered. Before the chase, police said they were warned that he had made a video of himself threatening to harm officers.

"We're goin' die tonight," he said over and over again in the video while driving.

He now faces a long list of charges such as threatening a public servant, fleeing or eluding, driving under the influence, reckless driving, criminal mischief and several traffic infractions.

Stiles also refused a breathalyzer test, said Clearwater spokesman Rob Shaw, that would have revealed his blood-alcohol level at the time of the incident.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: After alcohol-fueled police chase, Clearwater police say beach driver threatened them.

From inside the jail, Stiles said his intent was never to hurt anyone other than himself.

He was arrested May 27 on charges of assaulting a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and criminal mischief from an incident in which he was accused of drunkenly assaulting an officer at a motel.

He said Sarah Lynn Wright and her mother, whom he was renting a room from, had put up his bail from that arrest but constantly threatened to revoke it. They threatened to do so again on July 20, he said, if he didn't go see his public defender for the previous arrest.

But Wright, 26, said she had threatened to revoke his bail only once, when she found out he was still driving even though he had lost his license earlier in the month. She said Stiles was volatile, veering from being thankful and quiet to acting out.

"He was just very quiet," she said, "and then when things wouldn't be going his way or he couldn't handle it, he'd just lash out."

Wright said he had expressed interest in seeing his lawyer, but when it came time to go to his July 20 appointment, he refused.

"He just froze up and didn't want to," she said.

That's the moment, Stiles said, that set him off. He said it felt like they were going to send him back to jail.

"They literally pushed me to the edge," he said. "Eventually a man's going to snap. That's what happened."

He didn't want to wait for the police to come get him.

"You think I'm going to sit around?" he said.

So instead he set out on "one last good hurrah."

When asked if he suffers from mental illness, Stiles said he believes he has issues but was unable to explain what they might be. His mother and ex-girlfriend told the Times that he has been given medication in the past.

So why did Stiles livestream himself? He said he wanted to show that his life as an arborist wasn't as perfect as it may have appeared in his photos and videos on social media.

The image he projected, he said, didn't reflect his real life struggles.

"I wanted to show the world I'm not as perfect as everybody thinks I am," he said. "I'm just a troubled man trying to keep myself together."

Stiles said he regrets "that crazy drive on the beach," and that his actions that day hurt his ex-girlfriend.

He said he was caught up in the moment, angry and frustrated: "I just wanted to end it."