Two Damaging Chases, 2 Arrests, Innumerable Charges. But Should She Be in Jail?
FlaglerLive | December 4, 2012
It finally took three cops and all three of their banged-up cruisers to box in Deborah Brinkman and her Jeep Cherokee in the Golden Corral restaurant parking lot in the wee hours of Monday, after the 59-year-old woman had taken Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies on a harrowing chase that began in the Walmart parking lot. When she was finally stopped, deputies did not take any chances: they extricated Brinkman from her car through the driver’s side window of the Cherokee.
By then, she’d not only eluded cops several times through various maneuvers Monday morning. She’d taken them on a chase a week ago, also along palm Coast Parkway, until she was stopped, arrested and jailed, only to bond out. On Monday, she was arrested on many more charges, including battery on a law enforcement officer, and faces a $23,000 bond.
For all that, there are serious questions about Brinkman’s behavior, her state of mind, and whether she should be in jail, as opposed to a mental health facility. But absent narrow exceptions and individuals’ ability to pay for such care, those facilities do not exist in Flagler County. One that does—Stewart Marchman Act Behavioral Health Care—has seen its funding cut back, forcing it to scale back its services. Brinkman’s story may not be the one-dimensional story of a woman leading cops on two dangerous chases in two weeks. But the legal response may have to be one-dimensional, because the system has no other alternatives. Isolated efforts aside, state and local governments have been largely uninterested in broadening a social safety net that could more appropriately divert individuals with mental health issues from the criminal justice system.
Brinkman became familiar to Flagler County cops on Nov. 26 when a Faith Lane resident alerted them to a woman who may have been squatting in a vacant house on that street, and driving her Cherokee up and down the street repeatedly. When a cop located the Cherokee, Brinkman eluded—from Faith Lane to Farrington Drive to Florida Park Drive, all along ignoring most traffic signs and signals. She did stop at a stop light at Florida Park Drive and Palm Coast Parkway. The deputy was behind her, his cruiser’s lights flashing. But when the deputy stepped out of his cruiser to walk to Brinkman’s car, she smiled, waved, and drove on. She was finally stopped some distance later, when she told the deputy she wasn;t sure what had happened, though she could not follow instructions, according to a police report filed last week, “was not making much sense,” and was refusing treatment. She was arrested, charged with reckless driving and fleeing and eluding, but a police report noted that she was under the influence of neither alcohol nor narcotics.
That was not the case Monday morning (four days after posting $2,750 bond on the Nov. 26 charges).
That morning, a Walmart employee told cops that a woman was driving around the parking lot and throwing paper towels smeared with feces out the window. Deputies located the same Cherokee parked between two cars in the lot, and activated their lights. As soon as she saw the cops, Brinkman took off. Deputy Alfonzo Dillard was standing on the passenger side of the Cherokee, in a tight spot between the SUV and another car. Brinkman looked directly at Dillard, the report states. “It appeared by the driver’s actions that she was attempting to run Deputy Dillard over with her vehicle in an attempt to flee law enforcement and avoid apprehension,” the report states.
Deputy Emery meanwhile tried to open the front passenger door by reaching through the partially open window, only to retreat quickly when Brinkman accelerated, to avoid being pinned between her car and another. A car chase began, speeding through the parking lot onto Cypress Edge Parkway and into the southernmost entrance to the Lowe’s parking lot, where Brinkman struck a parked semi trailer. Deputies tried pinning her Cherokee there, but Brinkman put the car in reverse, struck a deputy’s cruiser and pushed it across the lot, while the cruiser was still in park. The deputy put his cruiser in reverse and pushed back against Brinkman’s Cherokee. “The suspect vehicle and my vehicle were sliding at an angle to the side in which the suspect vehicle almost pinned Deputy Dillard against the semi-trailer,” the report reads.
From there, Brinkman fled again, driving to the Golden Corral parking lot where again the Cherokee and a deputy’s cruiser locked horns as deputies attempted to keep Brinkman from returning to the road. It finally took three cruisers to pin her vehicle at the edge of the parking lot.
Brinkman’s speech was slurred, the report states, and she emitted a strong odor of alcohol. A blood analysis taken by medical staff at Florida Hospital Flagler, where she was taken after she was bleeding from both knees and said her nose was injured, showed a blood alcohol content of 0.374 percent. The Florida legal limit is 0.08.
Deputies placed the damage to the trailer at $1,000, and to the cruisers at $10,000. Dillard sustained minor injuries and was briefly treated at Florida Hospital Flagler. Brinkman refused to submit to a blood or urine test in reference to driving under the influence, the report states. She was charged with aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer, driving under the influence with injury, felony criminal mischief, and fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement.
While mental health services in Flagler County are elusive, the Flagler County Health Department—whose own budget has been shrinking under Gov. Rick Scott’s administration–has been pursuing a federal grant that would establish a community health care center that would expand medical services available to the indigent. One of the center’s required components, said Patrick Johnson, the department’s administrator, is mental health services, but only on an outpatient basis.
Brinkman, a month shy of 60, may be in full control of her capacities, committing willful if alleged criminal acts while placing cops and others in danger: while there have been efforts locally to better train cops to detect behavior caused by mental health issues as opposed to outright criminal behavior, police reports don’t reflect those evaluations. They are point by point renditions of incidents as the cops who write them experienced or witnessed them, and they are designed to be as factually favorable as possible to the state attorney’s case in court, should it go that far. But in contrast to most such police reports, Brinkman’s–both this week and last–strongly suggest that she may not have been in rational control of her capacities.
Brinkman’s address is listed as 23 Walnut Avenue in Ormond Beach. Whether that’s her true address is unclear: she was listed as a transient when first jailed last week, and had been reported to be living as a transient in an unoccupied house on Faith Lane. Tuesday evening, she remained at the county jail.