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Fleeing truck bursts into flames in Volusia orange grove, deputies say

Report: Volusia deputy fires less lethal shotgun, hitting suspect in back

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A driver fleeing in a pickup truck led deputies down multiple streets before driving through a park where the vehicle burst into flames in an orange grove, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

Robert Bradley, 38, was driving a black pickup truck north on Grand Avenue shortly before 2 a.m. 
Sunday when a deputy noticed his right taillight and tag light were out and tried to pull him over, according to an incident report.

When the deputy turned on his lights, Bradley sped off, according to the report. The deputy turned off his lights and called for backup as he attempted to keep an eye on the fleeing truck, the report said.

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Another deputy located Bradley on Glenwood Road, where another responding law enforcement officer deployed stop sticks in an effort to stop the pickup, deputies said. 

More sticks were deployed until the tires on the truck began to fall apart as Bradley drove it to Burts Park Road, deputies said. Eventually, he left the road, driving through and damaging gates as he entered Chuck Lennon Park, deputies said.

Bradley also drove across baseball and softball fields and nearly crashed into a concession stand before the truck came to a stop in an orange grove near the back of the park, according to the report.

Deputies said they pointed their guns at Bradley and ordered him several times to exit the truck before he eventually complied. The truck burst into flames while the passenger, 39-year-old Kelly Souders, was still inside, deputies said.

At some point, Bradley appeared to be reaching for his waistband, according to the report. Unsure of whether he had a weapon, one deputy fired his less lethal shotgun, hitting Bradley in the back, the report said.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who referred to the less lethal weapon as a "beanbag shotgun," said the agency converted nearly 100 guns into less lethal weapons for situations just like this one.

"The deputies did a phenomenal job. I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the way they did it. I'm proud of the deescalation," Chitwood said. "They took him into custody, my deputies went home safe and he went to jail."

Bradley was checked out by Volusia County Fire officials and cleared before he and Souders were taken to the Volusia County Jail, deputies said. 

According to the Sheriff's Office, deputies found methamphetamine and a needle while taking Bradley into custody. A fire extinguisher was used to put out the flames coming from the hood of the pickup truck.

"They tried to set the truck on fire to probably destroy evidence," Chitwood said. "People just don't think clearly when they're in those situations."

According to the report, Souders and Bradley both had warrants for their arrests out of Lake County.

Bradley was charged with fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement with emergency lights and sirens activated, possession of methamphetamine, criminal mischief over $1,000 in damage and possession of narcotics paraphernalia, the report said. He was also issued two traffic citations, deputies said.