CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A 27-year-old man broadcast live on Facebook as he sped down a Florida beach, running over beach chairs and umbrellas while drinking from a bottle of Canadian Mist whiskey.
Authorities said he was yelling expletives about the police cars that were chasing him.
The commotion along the beach on Florida’s west coast Thursday afternoon sent beachgoers scrambling for safety, but no one was injured.
“It could have been a lot worse today,” Clearwater Deputy Chief Donald Hall said.
Hall told reporters at a news conference that Ryan Stiles eventually came to a dead end where he had to make a decision — drive his black SUV into the water or surrender. He was taken into custody and faces multiple charges, including DUI, reckless driving, hit and run, and threatening a public servant.
It was just before 4:30 p.m. when Clearwater police started getting 911 calls, some from as far away as California, bringing their attention to the threats Stiles was making from his Jeep Cherokee, Hall said. Dispatchers kept callers on the line as police tried to locate him. Driving isn’t allowed on the beach.
The Facebook video shows Stiles repeatedly said, “We’re goin’ die tonight,” shifting his eyes from his phone to the windshield as he sped down the beach. He streamed about five minutes of his ride.
“We had no idea what this individual’s intentions were,” Hall said, adding that police officials secured the front door of the main police station out of precaution.
Stephanie Ball, her 14-month-old son Parker Daly and friend Emily Keene were enjoying the afternoon at the beach when they saw the SUV barreling toward them, following by police cruisers.
“We were lucky we were awake and alert,” Ball told the Tampa Bay Times . The baby’s playpen was about 5 feet (1 meter) away from the SUV’s path.
A friend of Stiles made the first call to police. Sarah Lynn Wright, 26, told the Times that Stiles was trying to get out of a tough spot when she met him three months ago and let him move into a home she shares with her mother. On Thursday, she said he returned from a meeting with a public defender who told him it was unlikely he was going to get probation for a previous resisting arrest charge he is facing.
Wright said Stiles packed his stuff and left. She called police when she saw the video.
“It’s not out of character for him to get angry and storm off,” she said. “I feel like he couldn’t handle the stress and that was it for him.”
Jail records don’t list a lawyer for Stiles.
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