George Garland Wood gave Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and Bunnell police officers a very difficult time Tuesday evening in Bunnell. But Wood has been giving cops a difficult time for years: he’s been convicted of felonies 10 times, and last night the 31-year-old Bunnell resident was on the run from a felony warrant out of Louisiana. It took a tasing, a wrestling match, a chase through the woods and the help of Volusia County’s Air One emergency helicopter to finally subdue and arrest him. He faces a long list of charges.
The incident began when Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy Gonzalez—a year and a half on the force—was patrolling in the area of the Circle K in the heart of Bunnell (at the intersection of State Road 100 and U.S. 1) and saw Wood arguing with another man, by a car in the middle of the gas station’s parking lot. Gonzalez stopped to investigate and ask Wood to speak to him. Three men were involved, either arguing or standing by—Wood, Steven Huffman, 28, of Bunnell, and Taylor Hershelman, 22, of Palm Coast. Huffman and Hershelman were in a silver pick-up truck.
“What do I need to talk to you for?” Wood said, turning away from the cop and walking toward a 2006 Chevy Van, where he took something out of his pocket and threw it into the van, to the driver, Emily Burguez, 23, of Palm Coast. At that point Gonzalez did not know that a loaded Hi-Point 9mm handgun was between the passenger’s and driver’s seat of the van. The cop continued to command Wood to come speak to him, but Wood jumped into the van head first, according to his arrest report, and told Burguez to “go babe, go.” (Bunnell Police Department officer James Flynn, who’d pulled up at the same time as the deputy, according to Flynn’s report, was speaking with the two other men at the time.) Wood then attempted to operate the van’s controls himself, first jerking it forward, then putting it in reverse—all the while with Gonzalez trying to grab him through the window of the vehicle—and finally sending the van over a curb and crashing in reverse against a pole, narrowly missing Flynn.
Gonzalez tried to open the gold-colored van door. It was locked. Wood kept trying to engage the van again and drive as Flynn came to help.
“As I approached the driver side of the vehicle, I observed [Wood] lean over to the driver side of the vehicle and attempt to put the vehicle in reverse while trying to operate the gas pedal with his hand,” Flynn reported. “The vehicle then reversed out of the parking spot, causing me to jump out of the way of the vehicle.” The vehicle crash pinned the vehicle in such a way that it couldn’t move anymore, Flynn reported.
When Flynn approached Wood, ordering him to shut off the van and get out, and seeing Wood continue to try to drive off, Flynn took out his Taser.
Flynn warned Wood that he would use the Taser, and when Wood, according to his arrest report, ignored the order, Flynn fired, landing a dart on Wood for five seconds. Wood “then fell into the passenger seat where Deputy Gonzalez opened up the passenger side door, pulling George out of the vehicle and guiding him to the ground.”
That was putting it diplomatically: Wood was in fact wrestled to the ground, according to Gonzalez, as he “continued to resist after he was tased,” Gonzalez reported. Because of his “level of resistance, I used a takedown technique and brought [Wood] to the grass where I attempted to secure him in handcuffs.” Wood continued to fight, and it took Gonzalez and Flynn to finally handcuff him and place him in the backseat of Gonzalez’s patrol car—after he was cleared by medical personnel for the Taser shot—where he was placed under arrest on the strength, at that point, of the warrant out of Louisiana.
That didn’t last.
Gonzalez was searching the van, where he found the handgun and unloaded it of seven rounds, including one in the gun’s chamber. Burguez, the woman who was in the driver’s seat of the van, told Gonzalez that she didn’t know there was a gun in the van, which she said was borrowed from a friend of Wood’s. She was detained in Flynn’s patrol car. As that was going on, Gonzalez suddenly saw Flynn take off running: Wood had somehow managed to rip open the cage of the back-seat compartment in Gonzalez’s patrol car—a vulnerability that’s left unexplained in the arrest reports—though Gonzalez’s report also states that he “observed the passenger rear door open and George was not in the patrol vehicle.”
The way Flynn described it, Wood “was able to move his handcuffs from behind his back to the front of his body,” then “pry off the bars on the rear window and open the rear door to flee.” Flynn saw him running north on U.S. 1, also known as State Street, and ran after him but lost him. K9 units and Volusia’s Air One helicopter were called. The helicopter picked up heat signals in the woods by East Howe and North Cherry Streets, where cops converged, finding Wood in a tree: “I’m over here,” he called out to cops at one point from the tree.
He was re-arrested on several felony counts: aiding a prisoner escape, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and criminal mischief, as well as aggravated assault on a cop and obstructing an officer without violence.