‘Habitual traffic offender’ charged in Polk County crash that killed 80-year-old man

Suspect clocked driving 98 mph in a 60-mph zone, officials say

Courtney Wright, 30, charged in fatal Polk County crash that killed 80-year-old man.
Courtney Wright, 30, charged in fatal Polk County crash that killed 80-year-old man. (WKMG)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A Winter Haven man who Polk County deputies say is a “habitual traffic offender” has been charged in connection with a crash that left an 80-year-old Lake Wales man dead, according to a news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said 30-year-old Courtney Wright sped through a red light Tuesday morning after a Lake Wales police officer clocked him going 98 mph in a 60-mph zone south of the Eagle Ridge Mall. The officer activated his lights and siren and tried to pull Wright over but the suspect continued speeding away, authorities said.

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“As the suspect vehicle approached the intersection (U.S. 27 and Chalet Suzanne Road) he began to change lanes in a reckless manner weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed. When the other vehicles separated to yield to Officer Robertson, the suspect vehicle crossed two other northbound lanes of travel and entered into the right turn at a high rate speed. The suspect failed to stop at the red light and entered the intersection at a high rate of speed,” an arrest affidavit read.

Wright, who was driving a 2010 gray Chevrolet Equinox, rammed into Raymond Hart, who was driving a 2003 gray Chevrolet Silverado at U.S. Highway 27 and Chalet Suzanne Road, deputies said. Hart died at the scene.

Wright was taken to a nearby hospital for injuries that were not considered life-threatening, according to deputies. He’s expected to be booked into the Polk County Jail upon his release.

According to the sheriff’s office, Wright’s driver’s license was not valid at the time of the crash and has been suspended multiple times, including on the following dates:

  • 09/26/2016
  • 06/05/2017
  • 06/29/2017
  • 03/07/2018
  • 05/29/2018
  • 05/30/2018
  • 07/09/2018
  • 07/11/2018
  • 08/08/2018
  • 08/27/2018
  • 09/19/2018
  • 01/13/2020

His license was revoked in August 2015 for being “a habitual traffic offender,” deputies said.

According to the news release, Wright is also a convicted felon who has an extensive criminal history, which includes 12 previous physical arrests in Polk County, 26 total felony charges, 16 misdemeanor charges, 15 re-arrest charges and one incarceration in state prison.

His previous charges include disorderly conduct, multiple counts of burglary, multiple counts of grand theft, multiple counts of petit theft, robbery, dealing in stolen property, aggravated battery - domestic violence, battery, harassing a victim, multiple counts of failure to appear in court, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, throwing a deadly missile at an occupied vehicle, multiple counts of knowingly driving while license suspended, willful refusal to accept a citation, failure to register a motor vehicle and multiple counts of violation of probation.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wright should have been behind bars.

“Wright’s horrifically reckless behavior directly led to this terrible tragedy — an innocent man is dead and his friends and family are grieving. Wright shouldn’t have been driving, and frankly, with his criminal history, he should have been in prison. Wright demonstrated zero concern for the lives of others—we will do everything we can to hold him accountable and see that he spends a long time in prison,” Judd said.

The Lake Wales police chief also released a statement following the deadly crash, offering condolences to the victim’s family.

“Mr. Wright’s selfish and criminal actions have negatively impacted the lives of so many people — Mr. Hart’s family is devastated. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We are going to do everything in our power to hold Wright accountable for his actions and make sure that justice is done,” Chris Velasquez said.

In connection with the crash, Wright faces charges of vehicular homicide and felony driving with a suspended driver’s license. The Lake Wales Police Department has also charged Wright with fleeing a law enforcement officer, according to the release.

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