VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A family was left on the side of the road with a flat tire after their vehicle was mistakenly hit by stop sticks as deputies were pursuing a domestic violence suspect who was in a similar-looking vehicle, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said both the vehicle containing the Palm Coast family and the vehicle with the suspect inside were dark-colored Ford Escapes and that the mistake was made in the heat of the moment.
On Sunday evening, authorities from several law enforcement agencies were attempting to apprehend Darius Davis, 21, in connection with a domestic violence incident, the report said. Authorities believed he was armed with a knife and/or a gun.
Law enforcement agencies shared information that Davis had fled from Daytona Beach Police and Ormond Beach Police in his gray Ford SUV and was now driving northbound on Interstate 95, according to deputies.
Two Volusia County deputies were posted near mile marker 274 on Interstate 95 and waited for commands from dispatch. As Davis was approaching, one deputy deployed stop sticks in the left lane and the other deputy deployed stop sticks in the right lane.
Davis' vehicle was in the right lane and had its front left tire deflated. In the left lane was another Ford SUV with a man, two women and two children inside. That vehicle's tire was also deflated during the incident, according to the report.
“We accidentally stop sticked the wrong vehicle. We stop sticked the right one, but we also got the other one with the stop sticks,” Chitwood said.
None of the family members were injured.
The driver, MJ Locklear, claims deputies approached him and his family with their gun drawn then left when they realized it was the wrong vehicle.
Chitwood said the stop sticks were deployed at 6:20 p.m. Locklear called authorities 21 minutes later and told them that he and his family needed assistance because their vehicle was hit with stop sticks.
A deputy arrived 12 minutes later to assist the family and he stayed with them for more than an hour, the sheriff said.
Body camera video shows a Volusia County deputy explaining what happened to the family as they were stuck on the side of Interstate 95 waiting for a tow truck. He told the passengers that their vehicle and the suspect vehicle were both dark-colored Ford SUVs.
"It happened so fast. It was stop stick hit, your car came over, and that was the information that was relayed, so that's why people came to you with guns drawn. I apologize," the deputy said.
He gave the family snacks and water while they waited for a truck from Universal Towing to arrive. Chitwood said the deputy escorted the family back to their Palm Coast home and the department will be paying for the tow truck as well as a new tire.
“We made a mistake. We stop sticked the wrong car and we’re going to pay for that,” Chitwood said.
The sheriff said the deputy who responded to assist the family did everything he could to explain the mistake and tried to make it right.
“I think if you watch the deputy, the deputy was phenomenal,” Chitwood said.
Still, he said, Locklear has retained an attorney and is considering a lawsuit against the county.
News 6 spoke to Locklear over the phone, who confirmed the family is planning to sue, but he would not say for what. Locklear said the family has roadside assistance and it cost them less than $20 to replace the tire. He also said the county planned to reimburse them for that. Chitwood said the county already paid for the car to be towed to their Palm Coast house.
“What we did was wrong and we want to review the facts and circumstances, but some of the things being told by this guy aren’t right,” Chitwood said.
An internal investigation will be opened to determine why the deputy who deployed the stop sticks did not have his body camera video on. Chitwood said that deputy could be disciplined for not having the camera on.
The department will also review whether or not deputies approached the family with their guns drawn, although Chitwood said that would have been standard because they thought they were approaching an armed suspect.
After Davis' tire was deflated, authorities arrested him near mile marker 282 on Interstate 95, the report said. Authorities said he was taken to the Flagler County Jail on several felony warrants.