Grand jury: Apalach cop justified in firing at speeding car

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A Franklin County grand jury has ruled that an Apalachicola police officer, who discharged his weapon three times at a speeding motorist in a June 2020 incident on the Gorrie Bridge, was justified in his use of deadly force.

On Aug. 24, the grand jury decided that Lt. Timothy Davis acted appropriately in firing his .45-calliber Glock 21 into the 2014 Toyota Camry being driven by Kayleigh Nichole Maxwell, 23, of Port St. Joe, at what law enforcement reported as being more than 100 miles per hour.

“(He) had probable cause to believe that Maxwell was a possibly impaired and definitely reckless driver and posed a significant danger to the community, through both her driving speed and pattern and by failing to stop when ordered to do so by a law enforcement officer who had activated their emergency lights,” the grand jury wrote in their findings.

“We further find that (he) made a heroic decision to put the safety of the community before his own,” read the findings. “There is no possible way a vehicle could successfully travel through downtown community at such a speed. Rather than allow this catastrophe to happen, (he) created a one-car roadblock with his patrol vehicle.

“Hearing the engine roar as it climbed the slope of the bridge, (he) fired as a last chance effort to stop the car from crushing him. This use of deadly force finally succeeding in stopping the threat,” read the report. “We the grand jurors of Franklin County thank him for his service and all those who strive to keep us safe.”

Maxwell’s name was included in the 11-page investigation summary prepared by Luke Johnson, a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which was uses by the State Attorney’s Office in presenting the case to the grand jury. Davis’ name, however, was redacted since under Florida law he is regarded as a crime victim, and his identity is confidential.

Apalachicola Police Chief Bobby Varnes said he was confident Davis would be exonerated of any wrongdoing.

“I’m glad that they did. I didn’t have no doubt that it was going to be justified,” he said. “That he had to wait that whole time, that’s stressful."

“I’m glad it’s over because I’m tired of hearing everybody talk about it,” Varnes said.

The investigation outlined in detail the circumstances leading up to the incident, both of the motorist involved and of law enforcement once they learned of what was happening.

Lt. Gabe Lockley, from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, testified that law enforcement from both the county and city had converged on the Gorrie Bridge, which runs between Eastpoint and Apalachicola, after being informed by dispatch that a car was speeding from St. George Island through Eastpoint towards Apalachicola.

Eddie Doswell, who first alerted 911 around :2:30 a.m., told investigators that he witnessed a vehicle swerving onto the shoulder of the roadway, almost hitting the concrete wall of the Bryan Patton bridge, between St. George Island and Eastpoint multiple times. Doswell said he followed the vehicle until it sped past 80 miles per hour.

Lockley told investigators his speed measurement device registered the vehicle as traveling at 110 miles per hour when it passed him headed west on the Gorrie Bridge.

The report said that when Davis arrived at the scene, he activated his emergency lights and parked his patrol vehicle in the center of the road, near the “high hump” of the Gorrie Bridge. “(When it) appeared to (him) that Maxwell's vehicle was going collide with his patrol vehicle in a head-on collision, he stepped out of his patrol vehicle into the westbound lane of the bridge to avoid being in the truck,” read the report.

“Once standing in the westbound lane for a few seconds, he observed the vehicle turning in the direction of the center line of the road, and continuing towards him in the westbound lane,” it continued.

Davis then produced his firearm and backed up three to four steps, and fired his weapon three times in the direction of the vehicle as it was coming towards him,” reads the investigative report. “He stated that he feared he was going to die, so that's why he fired three rounds at the vehicle.”

When Lockley opened the front passenger door and made contact with Maxwell, she showed him her bloodied left hand, and reassured him she was fine, according to the investigative summary. She then complied with Lockley’s request to turn off her car and to place the keys on the front passenger seat.

In a later interview with Weems Memorial Hospital paramedic Jakob Watson, he told FDLE investigators that “Maxwell was adamant that law enforcement was not behind her, and she was not speeding, and did not see any emergency lights.”

Watson said she advised him, while in the back of the ambulance, that she was on her way home from St. George Island to Port St Joe after "hanging out" with friends, and had just dropped off a friend before being shot at on the bridge.

“Maxwell stated that after being shot at, she then steered her vehicle to move away from the shooter,” Watson reported. “Maxwell (said) she had been drinking earlier in the day, but had stopped drinking to sober up because she knew she had to drive home.”

Watson and emergency medical technician Chris Dusek each told investigators that based on their experience with emergency medical work, “Maxwell did not seem impaired to him.”

Maxwell was taken to Bay Medical Center where she was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. A blood draw was ordered, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement found her blood alcohol reading to be .136 percent, about .05 percent above the legal limit.

Maxwell now faces a charge of driving under the influence, with damage to person or property. A case management hearing is slated for Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7 before County Judge J. Gordon Shuler.

“At this time we will be seeking a trial on all charges pending against Ms. Maxwell,” said attorney Ethan Way.

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