BRADENTON, FL – A woman is facing attempted murder charges after slamming into a Manatee County deputy with a stolen vehicle as she attempted to flee police. The deputy suffered serious injuries as she was thrown into the air landing on the vehicle’s hood and windshield.
The terrifying event was caught on camera from a police helicopter hovering overhead.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said the incident began Wednesday after deputies located a stolen white Ford Taurus in the parking lot of a South Bradenton strip mall. Officers were searching for the vehicle after it was involved in a traffic accident earlier in the day and fled from police.
As deputies approached the vehicle to take the driver into custody, the suspect attempted to drive forward to exit the parking lot. A deputy parked her squad car in the path of the fleeing vehicle. The driver reversed away from the deputy’s car.
— Raymond E. Foster (@policeofficer) January 21, 2021
Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells commented about Vanfossen’s actions:
“She (the suspect) doesn’t care about anyone but herself. Every time we tried to pull her over, she’d drive erratically and do what she could to get out of here.”
The deputy exited her vehicle and gave commands for the driver to stop. The driver suddenly accelerated forward rapidly and struck the deputy, causing the deputy to be propelled onto the hood and windshield of the stolen vehicle.
The suspect continued to accelerate the vehicle forward with the deputy on the hood. The suspect’s vehicle rammed into another police vehicle and came to a stop. The collision caused the deputy to be thrown hard onto the pavement.
Manatee Co. deputy hospitalized after being hit by driver of stolen car, officials say
(Via WFLA News) https://t.co/8nWQPM54JR
— Caleb (@KingWray2) January 21, 2021
The driver was then taken into custody by other deputies at the scene.
The deputy suffered various serious injuries during the incident and was transported to an area hospital for treatment. Police said the deputy was in good condition and was expected to be released.
Katarina Vanfossen, 23, was charged with second-degree attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, motor vehicle theft, fleeing to elude, and leaving the scene of a crash.
CAUGHT ON CAMERA: A suspect hit a deputy with a stolen vehicle in Florida on Wednesday, and a helicopter belonging to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department caught the whole thing. https://t.co/9nXS8vi2j3
— WNDU (@WNDU) January 22, 2021
Sheriff Rick Wells said he regretted his deputy was unable to shoot the suspect to protect herself.
“The suspect accelerated and tried to ram through a very small spot, something that was never going to happen. It happened so quick that she didn’t even have time to neutralize the threat. She was justified to shoot at that suspect, I wish that she would have been able to, but she didn’t have time.”
Wells said he was upset about the violence toward his deputy and law enforcement nationwide, including the death of Hillsborough Corporal Brian LaVigne. Corporal LaVigne was killed in Brandon, Florida on January 11, one day short of retirement. The Corporal was killed when a suspect fleeing police in a vehicle struck his police vehicle.
— Allyson Henning (@WFLAAllyson) January 21, 2021
Sheriff Wells said:
“That’s what I think about, that Hillsborough County deputy was unable to react as well. My deputy was unable to react and we’re just thankful she’s still alive, but we continue to see this violence against law enforcement officers in this country and I’m sick of it.
“It could have been a lot worse. I was just grateful she was not seriously, seriously injured.”
Sheriff Wells said he would object to any plea bargains or deals for Vanfossen:
“She needs to be put in prison and I will do everything in my power to make sure those charges are not reduced, that there’s no plea bargain. She needs to do the time because my deputy is lucky to be alive and I’m aggravated and I’m angry about it.”
The injured deputy’s name was not released.
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Florida deputy killed just one shift before he was set to retire
January 12, 2021
BRANDON, FL – A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy was killed on January 11th, with the deputy reportedly being just one more shift away from retiring from the sheriff’s office.
“Master Corporal Brian LaVigne was a part of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office family since 1990, and he was just one shift away from retirement. We will never forget Master Corporal LaVigne for laying down his life in the line of duty.” – Sheriff Chad Chronister pic.twitter.com/k9H256bDKF
— HCSO (@HCSOSheriff) January 12, 2021
According to officials, 54-year-old Corporal Brian LaVigne was killed after 28-year-old Travis Zachary Gabriel Garrett rammed his vehicle into Cpl. LaVigne’s patrol unit while the suspect was allegedly trying to flee law enforcement.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister stated that Cpl. LaVigne’s final day to report to the sheriff’s office was on January 12th – however, that day never came for Cpl. LaVigne.
Officials say that the suspect, Garrett, had been witnessed tossing the likes of clothing and furniture off of his balcony on the afternoon of January 11th – prompting neighbors and locals to contact the HCSO about the aforementioned.
Deputies from the HCSO responded to the residence where Garrett was reportedly tossing items from – but since there wasn’t really any crime being committed, deputies simply left the residence after speaking with Garrett.
However, locals contacted the HCSO once again, as Garrett was allegedly stark naked and hurling food at some of his neighbors. Thus, deputies responded a second time to the apartment complex where the suspect resided.
During said second interaction with law enforcement, Garrett was alleged to have been attacking deputies at the scene – reportedly striking Deputy Michael Durig several times in the face.
There were reported attempts to get the suspect under control, with even tasers being applied against Garrett that ultimately proved to be ineffective on the suspect.
From what Sheriff Chronister relayed regarding the then-rapidly evolving matter, Garrett had then hopped into a vehicle and then rammed through a back gate and crossed two lanes of traffic. The alleged erratic driving by Garrett resulted in him hitting Cpl. LaVigne’s marked patrol car on the driver’s side head-on.
Sheriff Chronister stated that Garrett was going, “as fast as he could make that car go,” when he struck Cpl. LaVigne’s unit. According to first responders familiar with the incident, the scene of the crash was so destructive that deputies couldn’t immediately assist Cpl. LaVigne.
It wasn’t until firefighters hit the scene that Cpl. LaVigne could be extracted from the mangled vehicle, where he was later pronounced deceased after being transported to a hospital for treatment.
After having spent spent over three decades at the department before his passing, Cpl. LaVigne leaves behind his wife and two children, one of whom is also a deputy at the sheriff’s office.
Garrett was said to have been taken into custody on the evening of January 11th, with there being numerous charges pending against the suspect.
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Author: Scott A. Davis