A hit-and-run suspect was apprehended in downtown Winter Garden Sunday, Dec. 12, as residents waited along Plant Street to view the Winter Garden Golf Cart Parade.
The incident, which took place at about 6 p.m., canceled the rest of the parade, which had begun about 30 minutes earlier.
According to Winter Garden Police Department Capt. Scott Allen, shortly before the parade reached downtown, a vehicle, driven by Terryus Jorelle Baker, approached Plant Street traveling east at a high rate of speed.
“An officer tried to slow the vehicle down, and the driver of the vehicle accelerated toward the officer, almost striking him,” Allen wrote in a press release. “(Baker) continued to accelerate, striking another vehicle traveling in the same direction. The suspect vehicle became disabled, and (Baker) fled on foot,” he wrote.
According to eyewitness accounts, the hit-and-run occurred near Matthew’s Steak House, 360 W. Plant St. After the car became disabled, it came to a stop at City Hall, where off-duty officer Mario Lewis, of the Kissimmee Police Department, was waiting for the parade. According to Lewis, Baker exited the car and attempted to flee the scene after his vehicle slid to a stop.
“I thought it was a stolen vehicle,” Lewis said. “He narrowly missed a lot of people, then he got out and started running.”
Lewis gave chase along with several bystanders, stopping Baker on West Tremaine Street after Lewis drew his weapon and announced he was an off-duty police officer.
“He said his transmission went out, and he was trying to stop,” Lewis said.
However, Baker later admitted he ran because of an outstanding warrant. A female and two children remained in the vehicle. The female also was arrested after admitting to an outstanding warrant, Lewis said.
According to police reports, Baker was arrested for an invalid driver's license, possession of narcotics without a prescription, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, child neglect, and his outstanding warrant. The female suspect, Elizabeth Chavez, also was arrested. The children turned over to family. Florida Department of Children and Families also were notified.
The incident led to the cancellation of the golf cart parade. Many of the hundreds of residents waiting for the event had no idea what happened. Parade participants were waiting at the staging area, at Dr. Bradford Memorial Park, before they were told of the cancellation.
“They told everyone to go home, that the parade was canceled,” said one participant as she drove her decorated golf cart along North Lakeview Avenue.