TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A man accused of intentionally ramming the patrol car of a sheriff’s deputy who had one shift left before retirement will face a first-degree murder charge, the state attorney’s office said.
Travis Zachary Garrett, 28, will face nine charges, including premeditated murder of a law enforcement officer, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced late Thursday.
The Jan. 11 crash killed Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian LaVigne, 54, who was in a parked patrol car near a Tampa area apartment complex that was the scene of an incident involving Garrett.
In a statement, Warren said Garrett intentionally plowed his car into LaVigne’s marked patrol car, meriting the capital felony charge of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.
“This was a deliberate attack on law enforcement; he targeted a cop,” Warren said, “When you commit a crime like this — when you cause pain like this — you should expect consequences like this.”
Warren’s office will seek a grand jury indictment for the first-degree murder charge as Florida law requires.
Grand jury proceedings are currently suspended in Hillsborough County until Feb. 8 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The statement did not say whether Warren planned to seek the death penalty.
Garrett is also facing charges of fleeing from law enforcement resulting in death; vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter; two counts each of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence; and criminal mischief.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the Paddock Club apartment complex in Brandon, which is near Tampa, after reports that Garrett was walking around naked, breaking things and acting erratically, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
He first ignored deputies, then started attacking them and was hit with jolts from a stun gun before fleeing the parking lot in his vehicle, according to prosecutors. He rammed through an iron exit gate as deputies followed him with lights flashing, officials said.
LaVigne, who was not yet involved in the pursuit, was parked a few hundred yards away. Garrett’s car cut across two lanes of traffic and slammed into LaVigne’s patrol car, trapping him.
Rescue workers had to pry LaVigne from the wreckage. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Sheriff Chad Chronister posthumously promoted him to sergeant.
Court documents said that when deputies pulled Garrett from his car, he was “elevated and rambling,” and showed signs of being impaired. A urine test at the hospital was positive for cocaine and marijuana, documents said.
Garrett remains in the hospital for treatment of injuries received in the crash, Warren’s statement said.
A status check in the case is set for Friday, and a hearing on prosecutors’ motion seeking to hold Garrett without bail pending trial is scheduled for Monday.