Warning: expletives below.
A traffic stop involving two deputies and four individuals on I-95 turned briefly violent and ended with the escape of a suspect early this morning after a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy drew his taser and another blew out the tire on the suspect’s vehicle. It was not enough to keep the vehicle from speeding off. The deputy who drew his taser, Dominic Quintieri, 23, was not injured, nor was K-9 deputy Aaron Beausoleil.
The traffic stop had started calmly and routinely, with everyone’s cooperation, before one of the four individuals inexplicably turned belligerent, to the stunning surprise even of his friend, who was left at the scene and was not arrested. But the incident illustrates how rapidly a seemingly ordinary traffic stop can turn dangerous, and why traffic-violation stops ended with the death of six officers in 2019 (out of 48)–more line-of-duty deaths than in any other situation, according to the FBI.
Quintieri was southbound on I-95 around 2 a.m. today when he saw a black BMW with a temporary Florida tag that was not assigned to a particular vehicle. He pulled the car over at the 282 mile marker of interstate 95. Approaching from the passenger side, he saw four Hispanic individuals in the car “and immediately detected the odor of marijuana emitting from inside the vehicle,” according to his report.
After identifying himself and explaining why he’d pulled them over, Quintieri asked the occupants if there were any drugs in the car, enumerating several types. They said there was nothing of the type in there.
“When’s the last time anybody smoked in the car?” he asked. One of them said something about a cigarette. “So nobody smoked weed at all? Why does it smell like weed? Did anybody smoke weed? Just be honest guys.” The driver held up a pack of cigarettes as he passed him his driver’s license, telling the deputy the BMW was his sister’s car, bought just two days earlier. It had no insurance.
The driver was identified as Erick Rodriguez Morales, 21. He repeatedly denied there were any illegal narcotics in the car. Quintieri requested additional units. Beausoleil responded and went to the passenger side as Quintieri briefed him, saying the occupants had attempted to suppress the smell of marijuana with a spray. He sent Beausoleil to check the smell for himself. “I don’t smell it,” Beausoleil said, returning toward Quintieri. “Hey, if you smell it, let’s go for it.”
Quintieri instructed Morales to get out of the car, which Morales did, after asking if he had to, and lighting a cigarette moments later. He again told the deputy there was no weed in the car. The deputy clarifies the recent history of the BMW and tells Morales that a likely “clerical error” resulted in the tag not being assigned to the vehicle. “So I’m legal,” Morales asks. “Yeah, yeah, everything on the vehicle is good, but that tag isn’t assigned to the vehicle at all,” the deputy tells him.
“Why do you have to search my car?” Morales, who is cordial and cooperative at all points, asks.
“Because I smell the odor of marijuana,” the deputy tells him. The smell, Morales says, “don’t give you permission” to search the car. The deputy tells him by law it’s probable cause, allowing for just such a search. Morales says the deputy can check the car, “I don’t care,” but he was not giving consent.
All seems calm and rational from the conversation between the deputy and Morales. Meanwhile Beausoleil exchanges a little small talk with the other three in the car, about the chilliness in the air and such, before they ask him why the other deputy had pulled them over. When Beausoleil asks them whose car it is, one of the backseat minors says what Morales had said: it’s Morales’s sister’s car.
After a few moment’s idle silence, Beausoleil asks the front-seat passenger to step out of the car. The man says something unclear about not wanting to go, and closes his window in the deputy’s face. “Turn the car off,” Beausoleil says.
Just as Quintieri re-approaches the driver’s side of the BMW, the man jumps into the driver’s seat.
“As I approached the driver door, the front passenger began switching from the passenger seat to the driver seat, in an attempt to gain control of the vehicle,” Quintieri reported. “I then opened the driver door and grabbed the unknown suspects arm and gave him verbal direction to stop. The unknown suspect then actively began to physically push me away with his left arm. I was able to turn the vehicle off by hitting the push start. I then drew my agency issued Taser X-2 and advised the unknown suspect with multiple loud verbal direction that he would be tased if he did not stop.” The sound of a taser going off is briefly heard in the deputy’s footage, but not seen.
Someone in the vehicle keeps saying “don’t do it.” It isn’t clear if it’s the man struggling with the deputy or one of the two backseat individuals, both minors. Almost immediately after the man jumped into the driver’s seat Beausoleil–displaying remarkable presence of mind–took out a long knife and stabbed at the BMW’s right-rear tire repeatedly, deflating the tire and opening the rear door, telling the two boys to get out. That action against the tire would prove to be key later in the recovery of the vehicle, even without a chase.
“As a struggle ensued with the unknown suspect, I observed the back seat passenger exit the vehicle and quickly approached me,” Quintieri reported. “I then turned my Taser X-2 towards the back seat passenger and gave him loud verbal direction to back up and stop advancing. While directing the rear passenger the unknown suspect was able to turn the car back on and I gave loud verbal direction to stop or he would be tased. The unknown suspect then put the vehicle into gear while still actively physically pushing me away. I deployed my agency issued Taser X-2 possibly striking the unknown suspect. At the same time, the unknown suspect was able to accelerate away.”
The knife was still in the tire.
Other deputies followed the BMW a distance, lights and sirens activated, but a high-speed chase was not authorized (Sheriff Rick Staly has raised the threshold of allowable chases in an effort to reduce the risk of injuries to innocent bystanders).
Only one of the two rear-seat passengers had gotten out.
“What the fuck, what the fuck,” one of the rear-seat passengers kept saying as Beausoleil led him to his patrol car, telling him he’d explain everything.
“Why did he take off, man?” Beausoleil asks Morales.
“I don’t know, he’s fucking crazy,” Morales answers, upset that the man took off with his little brother still in the back seat. “He’s a friend but I don’t fucking know him like that. The fuck. He took my sister’s car, bro, what the fuck? Call the fucking cops, bro. Fucking crazy, bro. That’s my little brother, bro.” He said he’d met the front-seat man a month ago. He identified him only as Derreck, saying he didn’t know his last name.
As that went on, the BMW exited at Old Dixie Highway, still speeding. Beausoleil left the scene to try to locate the vehicle, and found it crashed into a culvert, unoccupied, about halfway between St. Mary’s Catholic Church and Community Baptist Church. Beausoleil’s K-9 partner Axle went to work, tracking the vehicle’s occupants. The sheriff’s office requested help from Volusia County’s Air One, which is equipped with night-vision cameras. The search was fruitless.
“I then conducted the probable cause search of the vehicle, and located ‘shake’ all through the vehicle, and baggies with marijuana residue inside,” Quintieri continued in his report. He then swabbed parts of the vehicle for DNA evidence that may prove helpful in locating or identifying the suspect, this time with permission from Morales. Rogers Towing, the Bunnell wrecker, towed the BMW.
Morales and the 17-year-old boy were released without charges, a Flagler County Sheriff’s spokesperson said. The investigation continues, as a narcotics investigation. When last seen, “Derreck,” who is black haired, was wearing a white shirt and black pants. He speaks with a hoarse voice.