Live Oak —
A shirtless Brent Lee Blevins, 25, was shot five times on US 90 East in Suwannee County by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper after failing to comply with a trooper’s orders to stop and drop a gun he was holding following a high speed chase, according to a report by the Suwannee County Grand Jury.
The Democrat reported Friday that the jury returned a “no true bill” Wednesday, Nov. 7, after meeting to review the evidence of a high speed chase that ended with FHP officer Derek Maclaren shooting and killing Blevins.
The details surrounding what happened around 2 p.m. Aug. 26 were made public.
According to the grand jury report, a 911 call from a motorist told of a red Dodge truck operating in an unsafe manner on US 90. The motorist describes that the driver of the truck, later identified as Blevins, was driving erratically and running other vehicles off the road.
The motorist stated he and his wife had witnessed a crash where the truck had pulled into a driveway and backed into oncoming traffic, hitting another vehicle and failing to stop.
The motorist told the dispatcher on the other end of the 911 call that he would stay behind the Dodge until law enforcement could catch up. He said the tailgate on the truck had been damaged in the initial hit-and-run and had fallen in front of the tag, obscuring it.
Maclaren was traveling eastbound on US 90 when he was flagged down by several individuals who told him a red truck with a broken tailgate had just run into their vehicle and fled west. Maclaren turned around and with lights and siren caught up with the truck. The driver refused to stop, drove erratically, swerving lane to lane, jerking the steering wheel back and forth, running off the road, and steering the truck directly into oncoming traffic, the report states. Even with numerous orders to stop over the FHP car’s loud speaker, Blevins refused. The vehicles traveled on US 90 West past Suwannee Country Club. A Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office car was able to get in front of the truck. Soon after the truck immediately stopped on US 90 facing west, with Maclaren’s car in the left lane nearly next to the truck. The SCSO car turned around and was facing the truck.
Blevins exited his truck, shirtless, with his arms up and slightly behind his head with a handgun held in his right hand. After numerous orders to stop and drop the gun, with Blevins moving deliberately toward him, Maclaren felt his life was in danger and that Blevins was capable of killing him. Maclaren shot at Blevins six times, hitting him five times in the chest area. Blevins fell to the ground and his gun fell next to him. Maclaren then kicked the gun, described as a small black semi-automatic handgun, out of Blevins’ reach.
The report further stated that FDLE Sgt. Craig Riley, investigator of the shooting, later learned information that was not available to Maclaren or Riley at the time the incident occurred, but explained Blevins’ actions. Riley learned from Stacey Sapp, a friend of Blevins, that Blevins had been drinking heavily the night before and the morning of the shooting. He discovered that the truck and gun were reported stolen by Sapp that same morning. Riley learned from the autopsy that Blevins had an alcohol level of .22 and also had methadone in his system. The legal level of alcohol in the body cannot be or exceed .08.
The jury’s conclusions
The grand jury found seven conclusions:
- The 911 calls indicated credible concerns about Brent Blevins’ erratic and dangerous driving.
- The 911 calls also informed law enforcement that Blevins had already hit a vehicle and failed to stop.
- Trooper Maclaren’s in-car video and witness testimony demonstrate Blevins’ refusal to comply with orders to stop as a marked patrol car with lights and sirens is in pursuit.
- Testimony of witnesses that Blevins’ actions of exiting the truck with a handgun at the ready, his deliberate movement in the direction of Trooper Maclaren, and his refusal to stop and drop the weapon indicated credible threats of violence were imminent toward the trooper.
- Whether or not Blevins’ impairment diminished his criminal culpability the dangerousness of his actions is what is considered in determining the reasonableness of the law enforcement response.
- The Grand Jury, therefore, feels the actions of Trooper Maclaren were reasonable and justified given the immediate threat to himself.
- The jury believes the actions of Brent Blevins support a finding of probable cause that he committed the acts of felony fleeing a police officer, driving while under the influence (DUI), grand theft III: motor vehicle, and leaving the scene of a crash, and a true bill, had he survived, would accompany this report.