It wasn’t that long ago that suspect Darrell Brooks drove his SUV into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Six people died and more than 60 were injured in that incident after Brooks (allegedly) sped past police officers shouting for him to stop.
Last Sunday, we might have had a very similar story of mayhem in Florida if not for the actions of a Florida State Trooper named Toni Schuck. That day there was a 10k charity race taking place across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which crosses Tampa Bay.
The Skyway 10K raises money for the Armed Forces Families Foundation a charity that, as the name suggests, provides support for military families. Here’s a local news story about the bridge closure for the race.
Trooper Toni Schuck has been with the force for 26 years and that day she was stationed on one of the closed on-ramps to the bridge. That morning she heard over the radio that an apparent drunk driver had gone through a barricade and was headed toward the on ramp.
“Sgt Carter from the Tampa district, he came past me and I saw him,” Schuck said at a press conference. She continued, “I said, okay, he’s in momentum, he’s moving, I’m going to follow him but I’m going to stay back because I knew I was the last one. I knew there was nobody else behind me.”
Trooper Schuck expected the car would be stopped before it got her as there was another checkpoint it would have to go through. And then she heard on the radio the driver had indeed blown through that checkpoint and wasn’t stopping. Then up ahead she saw the speeding driver go past Sgt. Carter and keep accelerating. On instinct, she placed her SUV in the middle of the road. Here’s what happened:
⚠️ INSIDE LOOK at the heroism displayed by Trooper Toni Schuck. As the last line of defense, she placed herself directly in the path of a drunk driver heading toward a road closure where countless innocent bystanders were participating in a 10K race. Thank you, Trooper Schuck! pic.twitter.com/ozJ2du9m2w
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) March 11, 2022
Here’s what Schuck’s vehicle looked like after the crash.
She was able to walk away but as the adrenaline wore off she began to feel the pain and was transported by ambulance over the Skyway bridge:
“I saw people still there and it really overwhelmed me. It was just a situation where I knew there were people there and I’m thankful it was me. I’m thankful she didn’t get past me,” Schuck said with tears in her eyes.
The driver of the other car was identified as 52-year-old Kristen Watts who was also transported by ambulance to a hospital where she was so drunk she began shouting at the staff.
Watts tried to swing at a trooper accompanying her as she was taken by ambulance to Bayfront Hospital St. Petersburg, the affidavit said. Watts was tied down and couldn’t make contact. Her breath smelled of alcohol, her speech was slurred and she had bloodshot, watery eyes.
Watts could not say where she was when she was questioned at the hospital. She began “yelling and verbally abusing the medical staff attempting to treat her,” the affidavit said.
Her blood-alcohol level was recorded at .271 in the hospital, more than three times the legal limit for drivers of .08, the affidavit said.
Watts has been charged with a DUI and is in jail. Meanwhile, there’s been an outpouring of thanks to Trooper Schuck including from a lot of people who were on the bridge that day.
Praise for Schuck’s actions has poured in from people far and wide on social media, including many of the runners in Sunday’s Skyway 10K.
“She’s a hero, simple as that,” 29-year-old Stephanie Schwent of Brandon told the Times.
Here’s a local news report that features a bit of the press conference the Troopers gave featuring Schuck. We really could have been reporting on another deadly incident last Sunday if not for her actions. It’s good to see the outpouring of support for the heroic actions of law enforcement for a change.