PORT RICHEY — Deputies resuscitated a man they had been chasing Wednesday night after he ended up in a canal and nearly drowned, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
"It was a relief" when 40-year-old Jeral Bornstein started breathing, said Zachary Barr, a field training officer with the Sheriff's Office, during a news conference Thursday. "I think we all started this job to save lives."
The Sheriff's Office gave this account of what nearly led to Bornstein's death:
Bornstein, of Port Richey, was driving a blue Jeep that had been linked by investigators to a retail theft at a local Walgreens, sheriff's officials said. When deputies saw the Jeep about 10 p.m. near the intersection of U.S. 19 and State Road 52, they tried to make a traffic stop.
Bornstein, though, had other ideas. He fled the traffic stop and even tried to swerve the Jeep into a deputy's cruiser, authorities said.
Deputies then gave chase south on U.S. 19 at speeds up to 70 mph, said Cpl. Brett Morris, whose cruiser Bornstein almost hit. They finally caught up with Bornstein when he stopped at Westport and Seabreeze drives in Port Richey, west of U.S. 19. Bornstein left the Jeep behind and ran through a treeline, deputies said.
A canal was on the other side, deputies said, and it was unclear whether Bornstein jumped or fell in. He swam about 50 feet and then had trouble keeping his head above water, footage from body cameras worn by deputies shows. Two deputies went in after Bornstein and pulled him out.
Bornstein was unresponsive when deputies got him on land, the Sheriff's Office said, and had no discernible pulse. Deputies administered CPR until he choked up water. They attached defibrillator pads to his torso, though Bornstein started breathing before the machine delivered a shock. Pasco County Fire Rescue crews arrived soon after and took him to a hospital.
After he regained consciousness, Bornstein told deputies he fled because he was driving without a license. He also thanked deputies at the hospital and apologized.
"He was very grateful when we were at the hospital," said Deputy John Riyad, one of the deputies who jumped into the canal after Bornstein. "He acknowledged that had we not done what we did, he wouldn't have lived."
Riyad also explained that jumping into the canal to rescue Bornstein was potentially dangerous.
"We don't know what his intentions are," the deputy said. "We don't know if he's got a weapon."
Bornstein has a criminal past, records show. He has been arrested 10 other times in Pasco County since 2006, mostly on petty theft and other minor charges, according to jail records.
He was expected to be released from the hospital Thursday and will face charges of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer for swerving toward the cruiser, driving without a license, fleeing to elude law enforcement and resisting arrest. He also will be cited for speeding.
Deputies said that even though the Jeep was connected with the Walgreens theft, Bornstein was not a suspect.
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @josh_solomon15.