KEY LARGO, Fla. – A Florida man drove his truck through a checkpoint set up to prevent non-residents from entering the Florida Keys in response to the coronavirus after being turned away by deputies, authorities said.
Joao Ramon Perez, 56, was arrested Saturday evening and charged with a felony count of fleeing and eluding police, two misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer and one misdemeanor count of violating a disaster preparedness order, according to a Monroe County Sheriff's Office arrest report.
County officials began restricting travel last month on the only two roads leading into the Florida Keys from the mainland. The stations are meant to reinforce the island chain’s closure to visitors and non-residents as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Perez drove his Dodge pickup truck, which was towing a personal watercraft, up to the Overseas Highway checkpoint and gave deputies his driver's licence, which listed a Miami address, the report said. Perez also presented a tax bill for a property in the Keys that is owned by a limited liability company, but a deputy told him that was insufficient to gain entry to the island chain.
Perez told deputies he wasn't going to turn around and that they would have to arrest him, the report said. He then drove through the checkpoint and proceeded into Monroe County, officials said. One deputy followed Perez in a patrol vehicle and placed the man under arrest.
Perez was released from jail Sunday morning. Jail records didn’t list an attorney who could comment on his behalf.