BRADENTON BEACH – According to witnesses, at least one of whom took video, a man later identified as Kevin Rodriguez, 48, of Bradenton left a trail of destruction on Bridge Street that began shortly after he was asked to leave the Drift In bar on May 27.
A Bradenton Beach police report said the incident began shortly after 11 p.m. when Rodriguez insisted on leaving the bar and driving after staff refused to serve him alcohol due to his inebriated state. Bar staff members convinced him to surrender his keys and agree not to drive. The tactic did not produce the intended results.
Bar management called a tow truck to remove Rodriguez’s truck from the parking lot, at which time Rodriguez pulled a second set of keys out of his pocket and got into his truck. The tow truck driver attempted to block Rodriguez from leaving the parking lot, but he rapidly accelerated, throwing gravel over nearby people and vehicles. He also struck a parked car, doing extensive damage to that vehicle’s front end.
Bradenton Beach Police Officer Devon Straight was pulling onto Bridge Street from Gulf Drive just as Rodriguez was speeding west on the street towards the Gulf Drive traffic circle. Several people in the roadway ran to Straight’s patrol vehicle stating that the driver of the truck was drunk and had just caused an accident.
“I turned around to keep sight of the vehicle while other officers responded to the Drift In,” Straight said in his report. “I observed the pickup truck northbound on Gulf Drive traveling at a dangerously high rate of speed, passing vehicles and running cars off the road as they tried to avoid being hit. There were also many pedestrians in the area due to it being a holiday weekend. The truck then turned eastbound over the Cortez Bridge and began driving on the wrong side of the road to pass traffic.”
After crossing the bridge, Straight attempted a traffic stop with his lights and siren, but he said the truck just sped up, eventually pulling away from the patrol car. In his report, Straight said that due to the highly intoxicated state of the driver, he stopped the pursuit believing his reckless driving would continue and the chase was becoming too dangerous to the public.
A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter took over the chase about two minutes after Straight called off his pursuit, following the truck until it eventually crashed into a driveway at 1704 57th Ave. W. in Bradenton.
Rodriguez was arrested for DUI, felony fleeing/eluding, hit-and-run and reckless driving. As of press time for The Sun, Rodriguez remains in the Manatee County Jail.