‘I was the last officer': Trooper shares how she hit drunk driver to protect 10K race
Trooper Toni Schuck’s last-ditch effort to save defenseless runners was captured on dashcam video
By Ryan Ballogg
The Bradenton Herald
PALMETTO, Fla. — In the days since she blocked a speeding and allegedly intoxicated driver from reaching a bridge full of pedestrians, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Toni Schuck has received widespread praise for her actions.
The 47-year-old Tampa resident earned public thanks from her agency, fellow law enforcement officers and countless community members expressing appreciation online; the incident also made national news with a spot on NBC’s " Today Show.”
For Schuck, who was seriously injured in the crash, it is a moment that won’t be easily forgotten.
At a press conference on Thursday, the 26-year FHP veteran reflected on the split-second moment when she used her patrol vehicle to stop block the swerving driver.
“Every day since it’s happened I’ve thought about it,” said Schuck, who still had visible injuries on Thursday. “You go through the what-ifs.”
The driver of the rogue sedan, 52-year-old Kristen Kay Watts of Sarasota, had bypassed an interstate closure that was in place for the Sunshine Skyway 10K on Sunday morning.
The charity event attracted thousands of participants to walk and run over the iconic Sunshine Skyway Bridge that joins St. Petersburg’s Pinellas County and Bradenton’s Manatee County across Tampa Bay.
Multiple law enforcement officials tried without success to stop Watts as she sped closer to the event. Eventually, there was only one line of defense left between the rogue driver and the Skyway, FHP later said. And that was Schuck.
”...I was the last officer. I knew it was me. If it wasn’t me to get her to stop, then who?” Schuck said.
Watts remains in custody at the Manatee County Jail, according to sheriff’s office records. She faces multiple charges including DUI with serious bodily injury.
(c)2022 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)