22-year-old Plantation man awaiting transport to Sarasota County
A 22-year-old Plantation man has been charged with Aggravated Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer and Fleeing to Elude Arrest with Disregard for Safety, after allegedly striking a Sarasota Police Department (SPD) officer with a sedan on Bird Key, the Police Department announced this week.
Mark Kendrick Thomas Jr., 22, was arrested at a probation office in Broward County on the afternoon of March 22, an SPD news release said. He is a suspect in a Bird Key burglary case, the SPD release added.
“Thomas has been convicted of multiple crimes since December 2019,” the release pointed out; he was released from prison on Feb. 2.
During a March 21 press conference, SPD Chief Rex Troche told reporters that he had spoken with the injured officer, who was not identified. “Thankfully, he will recover from his injuries,” Troche said. “However, this incident could have ended with our agency making funeral arrangements.”
As shown in SPD body camera videos, Thomas, who was driving a Mercedes sedan, was headed to the only access point to Bird Key, where SPD officers had stationed their vehicles in an attempt to stop and arrest him, Troche pointed out. The officer who ended up being injured had anticipated that the suspect would try to take a side street or strike one of the patrol vehicles, Troche added.
Thomas drove past one of the Chevrolet Tahoes “and hit the officer head on, flipping him over the Mercedes,” Troche said.
The officer was transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for treatment.
“It was horrific,” Troche said of his response to seeing the incident on the body camera video. He and senior staff watched it together, he added. “We all gasped as we saw the officer jump about 4 to 6 inches off the ground and save his own life …”
Had the officer crouched down — an instinctive response in such cases, Troche noted — the officer most likely would have been killed.
Asked during the press conference about the nature of the officer’s injuries, Troche replied, “He’s in good spirits.” He has contusions on his legs and some soreness, plus swelling, Troche added.
As of late in the morning of March 23, the suspect — Thomas — remained in the Broward County Jail, a Broward County Sheriff’s Office record showed. He was being held without bond, awaiting transfer to Sarasota County, the record indicated.
Video of the Mercedes striking the officer may be viewed at https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#label/Law+enforcement+and+courts/WhctKKXwrkgCXwkrcmWsCsHpPwzNKzMjDlnLcxLKCkmpmChmxhGjzcgmjzMRMjXVBSdDdcQ?projector=1. The agency warns that the video may be disturbing to viewers.
Details of incidents on both Bird Key and Longboat Key
The Probable Cause Affidavit for Thomas explains that, at 2 p.m. on Monday, March 20, SPD officers responded to a call about an alleged vehicle burglary on Mourning Dove Drive on Bird Key.
The affidavit says that the victim reported that a gate opener and a garage door opener had been removed from the victim’s Land Rover.
Officers investigating the incident were able to gain information indicating that the suspect was driving a white S-series Mercedes sedan, the affidavit adds.
Later — shortly after 5 p.m. on March 20 — Longboat Key Police Department officers responded to a report of a burglary at an occupied residence on Fair Oaks Place on Longboat Key, the affidavit continues. During that incident, a 2023 Range Rover had been reported stolen, the affidavit notes. The suspect vehicle in that case also was a white S-series Mercedes sedan, the affidavit points out.
Then, at 9:11 p.m. on March 21, the affidavit continues, SPD officers returned to Bird Key after learning from a security guard that the same Mercedes had returned to that island. While other officers began searching the island, the affidavit indicates, two officers decided to place their SPD Tahoes at the Bird Key entry/exit, “just south of the guard shack,” which is located at 100 Bird Key Drive.
One officer located the Mercedes on Wild Turkey Lane as it was approaching Mourning Dove Drive, the affidavit says. A pursuit of the Mercedes began, with the vehicle headed to the Bird Key entry/exit, the affidavit notes.
After the Mercedes struck one of the officers near that entry/exit, the affidavit adds, other officers continued to pursue the suspect eastbound on the John Ringling Causeway. The vehicle proceeded “to flee north on Tamiami Trail,” but officers lost sight of it at the Second Street intersection, the affidavit points out.
A sergeant headed westbound on Fruitville Road spotted the Mercedes as it was turning north from Fruitville Road onto Orange Avenue, the affidavit says. As the sergeant also turned onto Orange Avenue, he “observed the vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, north on Orange Avenue past 12th Street.”
About 5 minutes later, the affidavit adds, officers found the Mercedes abandoned in a driveway on North Orange Avenue. Officers had the vehicle towed to the Police Department, where a search warrant was executed, the affidavit notes.
Determining the suspect’s identity
When they searched the Mercedes, the affidavit continues, detectives “recovered multiple items as evidence,” including a McDonald’s bag and receipt, a Chick-Fil-A bag, a red baseball cap with “Palm Beach” and a symbol stenciled on it, a cell phone, a Lift Master garage door opener, and a Linear electronic gate opener. Further, the detectives were able to collect several latent fingerprints “of value” from the vehicle, the affidavit says.
Further, the McDonald’s receipt contained information showing that it was printed at 1:10 p.m. on March 20, the affidavit adds. Video surveillance form the drive-through window showed the Mercedes sedan that officers had found abandoned on North Orange Avenue, the affidavit points out.
Additionally, using information on the Chick-Fil-A bag from the vehicle, officers were able to determine that the restaurant is located on Clark Road. They also viewed video surveillance from that dining establishment, the affidavit notes. In that video, they saw three Black males who appeared to be together inside the Chick-Fil-A, the affidavit explains. One of the men was wearing a baseball cap that matched the cap recovered from the Mercedes.
Further, a palm print from the cell phone in the car was confirmed to be from Mark Thomas Jr.’s right palm, the affidavit says, and the prints from the vehicle matched his, as well.
Detectives also were able to match the garage door opener and electric gate opener from the sedan to those reported stolen from the Mourning Dove Drive residence, the affidavit notes.
After detectives learned that Thomas was on probation in Fort Lauderdale, they contacted his probation officer and provided that individual still images and video from the Chick-Fil-A and from surveillance at the Bird Key guard shack. After the probation officer reviewed those images, the affidavit adds, the officer advised the detectives “that it was a high probability that the images were of Thomas.”
In its March 22 press release, the Police Department reported that Thomas had been charged with the following counts in years past:
- Carrying a Concealed Firearm, two counts — December 2019 and July 2021.
- Grand Theft Auto, two counts — May 2021 and June 2021.
- Possession of Marijuana over 20 Grams — June 2021.
- Burglary of an Unoccupied Dwelling — May 2021.
- Cocaine Possession — July 2021.