Marathon runner turned police officer catches Clermont crook with athletic ability

Kruse jumps off bike to catch suspected shooter

CLERMONT, Fla. – Officer Jack Kruse is nearly 60 years old, one of the oldest patrolling the streets of Clermont, but Kruse's body is one of the youngest at the police department.

"When you're a cop and you're 60, most people are younger than you," Kruse said.

He runs four miles every day and does three sets of 60 pushups without pausing.

"There's a feeling that a lot of cops sit on the corner and are fat and eat doughnuts," Kruse said. "That is not most cops and certainly not me."

"He finished 14th in the Boston Marathon, he's very fit, and always gets mad at me for saying these thing but I'm so proud of him," Jill Kruse, his wife, said. "He's got, what, 96,000 miles on his legs."

Jack and Jill Kruse have been happily married for almost 33 years.

When Kruse was a younger man, he ran in the Olympic trials. He was a sponsored runner, testing out sneakers for athletic shoe companies.

Clermont police Officer Jack Kruse running in marathons over the years.

On Aug. 20, Kruse's endurance helped him catch a convicted felon, accused of opening fire at a house in downtown Clermont and then running into the streets with the gun.

Kruse, the main Clermont police bike officer, was first to spot the suspect, Devante Dujuan Johnson, a 21-year-old from Groveland. Police said Johnson was convicted in 2016 of carrying a concealed firearm and possession of cocaine.

Kruse said Johnson popped out of an alley, then ran through a parking lot. Kruse kept up on his bike, through the parking lot, and pedaled toward a drop-off, not knowing what was beyond it.

"And I know that in order for me to catch him, I have to go over whatever the edge of that is," he said. 

Kruse, also a motorized parachute pilot, didn't hesitate.

"I managed to get between a wire and a couple of concrete blocks," said Kruse. "Luckily the drop wasn't too bad."

After Kruse sailed off the ledge, he landed in the woods, rode over to the suspect, and jumped off the bike and on top of him.

"I grabbed a hold of him, but my foot got caught in the bike, and when I pulled out he started to pull away from me and I realized I didn't have my shoe on," Kruse said. "So I just took after him with one shoe."

Running in bare feet is painful for Kruse. Last January, during a paramotoring accident at the beach, Kruse fell from the sky and broke his heel, legs and back. Doctors told him he wouldn't run again for a long time, if ever.

Kruse almost permanently lost his job at the department last April after he used his maximum days of family medical leave while he was wheelchair bound. Ultimately, he was reinstated by the police chief and the city manager in May.

"I was in a wheelchair for four months, and everything atrophies," Kruse said.

Kruse actually looked forward to returning to work on a bicycle. He said daily bike riding helped rehabilitate his legs.

Despite the pain of running without a shoe, Kruse said he ran as fast as he could and grabbed Johnson again, even though Johnson was bigger and stronger than Kruse.

"I'm just gonna go get him," Kruse said he thought at the time. "I don't think much except 'Hey there he is an here's my opportunity to catch him.'"

Kruse ended up tackling the suspect first on the street and then on the sidewalk.

"So I'm struggling with him, he's still on his feet, we're kind of working our way over, I got him in a bear hug, got him face down, I'm on top of his legs trying to get control of his hands because there's the possibility of a weapon in his hands," Kruse said.

A second officer ran over and pinned the suspected shooter and arrested him.

Johnson was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, felony drug charges and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, among other charges.

Kruse suffered several scrapes and cuts but refused to go to the hospital.

"He was beat up, but I've seen him worse," Jill Kruse said. "When he fell from the sky that was worse."

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for News 6 and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting.