MANATEE -- The Manatee County Sheriff's Office released dramatic video footage Wednesday of an April 14 bank robbery suspect chase that ended with a shootout.
A deputy was wounded and the suspect shot himself to death during the climactic finale.
An internal affairs report conducted by Detective Dan Dickerman and Inspector Kevin Dooley with the Professional Standards-Internal Affairs unit accompanied the release of the 14-minute video. The 27-page document includes a synopsis of what happened on the crime scene in the 5200 block of 33rd Street East in Bradenton as well as digitally recorded interviews with deputies on scene.
The report clears all four deputies in the shootout: Deputy Dawn Atkinson, Canine Deputy Keith Sutton, Detective Benjamin Main and Sgt. Brady McCabe. They acted appropriately when they returned fire after Lt. Robert Mealy was shot in the right arm, according to the report. The investigation was con
ducted to determine if deadly force was used in accordance with Florida statutes.
An autopsy found the suspect, 24-year-old Ross Chrisman, shot himself to death.
The video came from a sheriff's office helicopter, which tracked Chrisman as he drove south on U.S. 301, turned east on 51st Avenue East and then turned south on 33rd Street East north of State Road 70 where the shootout occurred. Chrisman was driving a truck matching the description of a vehicle used in a bank robbery in south Manatee earlier in the day. Authorities said Chrisman was also a suspect in robberies earlier at two convenience stores in Sarasota.
Mealy has returned to duty.
"Whenever you have a situation like this, it's very tense and then when you hear that one of our own is shot, its 'Oh my gosh,'" Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow said Wednesday.
Bristow said the sheriff's office learned right away Mealy was going to be OK.
"It wasn't a life-threatening injury," said Bristow. "The emotions run the gamut. You go from 'I can't believe this has happened' to 'Oh thank God.'"
A Manatee County Sheriff's Office helicopter unit picked up the chase as Chrisman fled northbound in the southbound lane of U.S. 301. Chrisman swerved off the road to avoid traffic, hitting a concrete barrier before swinging back onto 301. The air unit directed pursuing law enforcement officers to stay back. At 38th Street West, Chrismas hit stop sticks dropped by law officers to pop his tires but he continued to flee until he arrived onto 33rd Street West where he lost a tire.
The pickup truck slowed to a stop as the air unit ordered deputies into position.
Within seconds, several patrol cars and unmarked vehicles pulled within 50 feet of Chrisman's vehicle and deputies took up firing positions behind their vehicles.
"Shots fired, shots fired," could be heard over the radio and shortly thereafter Mealy reported he had been shot.
Gunfire was exchanged for about 50 seconds before the scene went eerily quiet.
The air unit made several passes over the vehicle and reported the suspect had not moved during that time period.
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, who was at the scene that day, also provided detectives with a digitally recorded interview.
Steube reportedly exited his vehicle to prepare for a felony car stop when the pursuit ended.
"Sheriff Steube watched as the driver of the pickup extended a handgun out the driver's side window and fire two or three rounds in the direction of Deputy Dawn Atkinson," the report stated.
Steube said he didn't see Mealy get shot, but he did see Chrisman shooting at deputies.
"Everybody acted very professionally," Steube said. "It started with a bank robbery, then a pursuit, then a felony takedown, and then the guy shooting at us and us returning fire."