The State of Florida vs. Shami Suber                                                     Home
Chapter 2- “I’ve got the victim in the other car. Signal 4. She’s not                        breathing."

As Lt. Commander Stonebreaker laid out the plans for a Felony Stop-Deputy Kyle Petersen, located at another apartment complex on Lokanotosa Trail, just west of the intersection, and Deputy Greg Wynn, one mile west on Lokanotosa Trail at the intersection with Rouse Road, radioed their locations and asked if they should deploy stop sticks. Lt. Commander Stonebreaker told them to be ready. As the turn signal turned green, the black car, the silver Jetta, Sgt. Hopkins, Lt. Commander Stonebreaker and Sgt. Gardiner all turned west on Lokanotosa Trail in that order, preceded by a hundred yards or so by the green Ford Escort driven by Sarah Phillips. 

Lt. Commander Stonebreaker tells the Deputies to be ready with the stop sticks-“He’s probably not going to stop here.” Deputy Kyle Petersen, located at the apartment complex .2 miles west on Lokanotosa Trail, deploys his stop sticks in the west bound lane as Stonebreaker, Hopkins and Gardiner activate lights and sirens and begin the felony stop. Deputy Wynn reminds everyone of his location; “Got sticks at Lokanotosa and Rouse.” 

As the procession goes past a pedestrian crossing the lead car, the unknown black car, slows and stops in response to the lights, sirens and Deputy Petersen’s stop sticks. As the black car, the silver Jetta and the three Deputies slow and come to a stop an eastbound vehicle turns in front of them into the apartment complex entrance where Deputy Petersen’s vehicle is parked. A pick-up stops at the apartment exit, and the taillights of a westbound third car can be seen a couple of hundred yards ahead-the green Ford Escort driven by Sarah Phillips. 

It is at this point that the situation begins to get out of control. A compounding series of misjudgments, misunderstandings and mistakes begins that will lead to the needless death of an innocent 20 year-old college student. At this point Sarah Phillips has less than two minutes to live. 

One of the Deputies following the silver Jetta radios that the suspect vehicle is not the black car, it is the second car-a silver Jetta. This statement would later confuse Deputy Greg Wynn, the Deputy with the stop sticks further west on Lokanotosa Trail. 

As they stop, Sgt. Hopkins, Vehicle #2 (the vehicle to the left of the suspect) in the Felony Stop, stops with his front bumper even with the rear bumper of the of the silver Jetta. Felony Stop procedures require that his front bumper should be even with the front bumper of the silver Jetta. This would have allowed two things. First it would have restricted the movement of the silver Jetta and secondly it would have allowed Sgt. Hopkins to utilize the cover of the engine block of his vehicle. Could this have made a difference in the outcome? Perhaps, perhaps not. 

Sgt. Hopkins also opted not use the technique of Tactical Parking. This would have involved placing his vehicle in a position that would have prevented the silver Jetta from fleeing. Properly executed, the subsequent fleeing and the resultant pursuit would not have occurred. 

As Lt. Commander Stonebreaker warned the Deputies of the potential of crossfire, Deputy Petersen inexplicably removed the stop sticks from in front of the black car and motioned it forward. As the black car began to move forward the driver mysteriously stuck his arm out the window and motioned the silver Jetta forward. The Jetta moved slightly forward and then jutted to the left of the black car. In a panic Deputy Petersen futilely threw his withdrawn stop sticks at the silver Jetta as one of the other Deputies yelled over his loudspeaker, “Stop silver car. Stop.”  The silver Jetta accelerated down the road. 

Sgt. Hopkins jumped back into his car and sped after the silver Jetta. Deputy Greg Wynn, seeing a dark colored car coming toward his position, a car going at or near the 25-mph speed limit with no Deputies in hot pursuit asked a critical question.  

Wynn-“It’s the first car, right?” 

Hopkins-“That’s correct. It’s coming up to Rouse Road. Can we have sticks up there, please?” 

Wynn-“Sticks down. Car coming.” 

Hopkins-“Westbound speeds are 70 miles per hour.” 

The green Ford Escort rolled to a stop nearly beside Wynn’s vehicle, which was parked facing west in the eastbound lane, with its road lights and emergency lights on. Perhaps in response to Wynn’s deployed stop sticks. Perhaps in response to Wynn’s vehicle. Certainly puzzled or fearful of the events she was unwittingly a part of. Had she observed the lights and sirens at the original stop at the eastern end of Lokanotosa? Almost certainly. Had she noticed the stop sticks in her path? Almost certainly. Was she fearful of what lay ahead as she approached Wynn’s vehicle? Almost certainly. As she stopped and looked to her left, across the hood of Wynn’s vehicle, could she see him standing in the dark with the string to the stop sticks? Maybe. Did Deputy Wynn look into Sarah Phillips’ face in the moments before impact? Later testimony reveals that he did. And what did Deputy Wynn do in the time it took Ms. Phillips to drive the 700+ feet from the crest of the small rise where her car first became visible and where he asked the question-“It’s the first car, right?” What did Deputy Wynn do in the 5-15 seconds she was stopped by his vehicle?  

He withdrew his stop sticks, and raised his right arm in anticipation of motioning her through the area.  

Recognizing the error did he rush to the side of the road, where Ms. Phillips could see him, and motion her through his position? No. 

Did he move from his “safe” position from the bushes to the left of his vehicle? No. 

Did he shout for Ms. Phillips to get down the road? No. 

He withdrew his stop sticks, and raised his right arm in anticipation of motioning her through the area. 

How far was Ms. Phillips from safety? She was less than 100 feet from the “T” intersection of Rouse Road where she would have made a right-hand turn. She was mere feet from safety if she had pulled in front of Deputy Wynn’s car or exited her car.  

As Deputy Wynn looked over the hood of his vehicle at Ms. Phillips, Shamir Suber in the silver Jetta bore down on her at 70-mph. The silver Jetta impacted the green Escort resulting in an explosion of plastic, glass, and steel. The Escort was propelled, slightly to the right and 170 feet across the intersection and came to rest against a guy wire of a utility pole. The silver Jetta went slightly left, grazed a tree, and came to rest on the grass across Rouse Road.

Sgt. Hopkins’ vehicle went through the debris of the impact and came to a stop just before the intersection. He exited his vehicle, music blaring, and walked toward the silver Jetta with his weapon drawn. The occupants of the silver Jetta tumbled out of the car as Sgt. Hopkins ordered them to the ground.

Over the next few minutes the dash video in Sgt. Hopkins vehicle documents the arrival of four more Deputies. A fifth Deputy appears (later identified as Deputy Greg Wynn) on the video and is motioned toward the second car.

“We’ve got one secure so far. We’re securing the other.”

“The car is clear. We’ve got two of two.”

The dispatcher reads the time, “At 1:11.”

The next voice on the dispatch tape is that of Deputy Greg Wynn.

"County, I’ve got the victim in the other car. Signal 4. She’s not breathing.” 

End of Chapter 2

James Phillips
July 30, 2004

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