ORANGE COUNTY, FL – Neil Demetree is the 57-year-old man who is facing felony charges after he allegedly drove under the influence and struck a sheriff’s office civilian field officer, killing him in the process.
He was transported from the crash scene and died at the hospital.
The death of David Grassi occurred on December 11, 2021. Now, nine months later, Demetree was arrested before eventually bonding out. He has been charged with vehicular homicide.
Orange Co. Sheriff's Office confirms Neil Demetree has been arrested for a December 2021 crash that claimed the life of OCSO Field Service Officer David Grassi.
In the report, Demetree told deputies he had three beers before hitting the road
First appearance at 1pm today pic.twitter.com/D1HGxyFEbM
— The Moonman (@Seancm98) August 12, 2022
A local station, Channel 9, was there when he left the county facility where he had posted bail. They confronted him about the charges he is facing. he simply turned and ran away, according to the ABC affiliate.
I spoke to Neil Demetree right as he posted bail today — he told me he feels guilty for making @OrangeCoSheriff’s Officer David Grassi’s wife a widow last December. ⬇️ @WFTV pic.twitter.com/gkcqy5WLqu
— Chantelle Navarro (@CNavarroWFTV) August 12, 2022
Here is what we know.
Early in the morning of December 11, Grassi was sitting in a marked county patrol vehicle. The 66-year-old man was monitoring a lane closure in a construction zone on Interstate 4 in Orlando.
Around 2:30, Demetree, who has admitted having three beers at a gentlemen’s club, was heading home.
It was in that construction zone where Demetree is alleged to have veered into the closed lane where Grassi was sitting, striking the patrol car, killing Grassi.
He told officers that he had a few beers, but the arrest affidavit showed a BAC of .08 as well as traces of marijuana in his system.
Investigators asked if he fell asleep, but he denied that allegation. He simply said the accident “shouldn’t have happened, but it did.”
When questioned about his recollection and driving into the lane, he said he:
“faded into the lane. I put on my breaks, and I tried to go around him.”
He also claimed to have been traveling between 60 to 65 miles per hour at the time of the accident. Forensics shows that he was traveling in excess of 85 miles per hour at the time. The speed limit in that zone was 40 mph.
Grassi had served with the agency for nearly 19 years.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support for the loss of Field Service Officer David Grassi who died in the line of duty on Dec. 11. He joined OCSO in 2003 as a 911 and became an FSO in 2008. He was 66 years old. Please keep his wife Nancy, their kids & grandkids in your prayers,” the OCSO tweeted back in December after Grassi tragic death.
Sheriff John Mina said that simply by being there, Grassi was a hero.
“He saved the lives of many road construction workers out there that night,” he said.
Mina was alluding to what could have happened if Demetree’s car had not contacted Grassi’s, instead swerving where the workers were stationed, potentially striking them.
Law Enforcement Today did a quick open records search but could not determine how much Demetree’s bond was or when he is due back in court.
We will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.
Hero trooper uses patrol vehicle to stop drunk driver from plowing into 10K race, saves countless lives
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – A Florida Highway Patrol Trooper is being hailed as a hero after she stopped a drunk driver from potentially plowing into thousands of race participants.
The trooper’s selfless actions occurred on Sunday, March 6, 2022, during the running of the annual Skyway 10k in Manatee County, Florida.
According to the Herald-Tribune, a woman driving a 2011 BMW 335i was traveling “at a high rate of speed,” on I-275, approaching the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, where thousands of runners and walkers were crossing.
I-275 was closed at that time due to the race.
The driver did not detour onto US-41 despite being directed to do so, and she instead drove around barriers and through traffic cones, past state patrol presence.
As the woman headed toward the bridge, two Florida Highway Patrol troopers drove south on the northbound lanes of I-275 to intercept her.
In the video below, the dash cam recording of Trooper Toni Schuck shows the moment when Schuck directed her patrol vehicle into the path of the oncoming BMW, colliding nearly head-on with the car:
🚨🚨 HERO ALERT: The last line of defense, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Toni Schuck placed herself directly in the path of a drunk driver heading toward a road closure where countless innocent bystanders were participating in 10K race. Thank you, Trooper Schuck! pic.twitter.com/C29FwZFPII
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) March 8, 2022
Schuck is a 26-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol.
The Herald-Tribune reports that she suffered serious injuries in the collision, but is now recovering at home.
According to WTSP, those injuries included a “serious head wound” and a concussion, as well as significant lacerations that “are expected to cause permanent scarring to her head and face.”
The driver, later identified as Kristen Kay Watts, 52, of Sarasota, was also seriously injured and was found to be intoxicated.
No participants in the Skyway 10k were hurt.
Watts was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol and charged with:
“driving under the influence with serious injury, two counts of DUI with property damage and two counts of reckless driving involving injury and property damage.”
Trooper Toni Schuck is a 26 year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol. She was the last line of defense to the Skyway 10K runners. She used her vehicle and herself to protect countless lives. Tonight she is home recovering from her injuries with her family. @fox13news pic.twitter.com/iAyMvG5QQ0
— Kim Kuizon FOX 13 (@kkuizon) March 7, 2022
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Ken Watson called Schuck the “last line of defense,” saying:
“There was no time to think. You have to act.
“And without question, she was the last line of defense.”
“There’s no telling what would have happened, had that vehicle actually reached all of those runners.
“You know, the bottom line is, these troopers saved dozens upon dozens of lives….
“For this trooper [Schuck] to risk her life to make sure that others would be ok, is the epitome of what service is all about.”
WTSP reports that FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins wrote an email praising Schuck and the other trooper who drove to intercept Watts and her vehicle.
“Both are high-caliber and high-quality members dedicated to the FHP and serving the public.”
State trooper Toni Schuck risked her life by using her vehicle to block a speeding car driven by an alleged drunk driver that was headed toward a bridge where thousands of people were running a charity race in Florida.https://t.co/qf0lxBLSW6
— Julia Fello TMJ4 (@JuliaFello) March 9, 2022
“Every one of them responded immediately and without hesitation.
“While the crash was severe, I know the injured Trooper who is currently receiving medical care as I author this email, is absolutely relieved to have been available to ensure the safety of hundreds of innocent persons.”
Skyway 10K announced in a Facebook post:
“On behalf of the Skyway 10K, we are beyond thankful for our law enforcement partners and the trooper who risked her life to keep our race participants safe.
“We are extremely grateful for the Florida Highway Patrol and all of our federal, state and local law enforcement partner agencies, not only for providing layers of security for this event, but the sacrifices they make every day.”
Watts is being held at the Manatee County jail on a $52,000 bond.
Fox 13 reporters shared a video showing Watts laughing during her first court appearance:
The Florida Highway Patrol announced:
“Those wishing to contact Trooper Schuck, who continues to recover from her injuries with her family at home, may send their thoughts to her attention at Florida Highway Patrol, 11305 North McKinley Drive, Tampa, FL 33612 or via our FLHSMV and FHP social media.”
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