SARASOTA — There was a beer bottle in the truck.
And outside the truck at the scene where it crashed there were more beer bottles.
More than one witness put Josh Hunter behind the wheel, and he smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes after the truck flipped along an Interstate 75 ramp in Sarasota, killing his friend Doug Garrity, according to Florida Highway Patrol reports obtained by the Herald on Friday.
But even with all that evidence, troopers did not administer a sobriety test or arrest the former Braden River High School football coach on March 21, the night of the crash.
A DUI manslaughter arrest warrant for Hunter was not issued until this week, more than seven months after the fatal incident.
“We obtained a blood sample, he was not a flight risk and we waited until the blood results came back to make that recommendation of DUI manslaughter,” FHP spokesman Chris Miller said Friday. “This case was handled thoroughly and properly. It’s the totality of the circumstances, and we made the best decision we could make.
“Regardless of the individual involved, this particular situation would have been handled the same way whether it was Josh Hunter, you or anyone else,” Miller added. “He has received no preferential treatment in this case.”
Garrity was not wearing his seatbealt and was ejected from the truck’s backseat after Hunter lost control of his Ford pickup, reports show. Hunter and the other passengers in the truck, James Hunter and Matthew Braselton, were not injured. Garrity was taken to Sarasota Doctor’s Hospital, where he later died.
Reports also show that, after the crash, Trooper George Yock said Hunter had a “strong odor of alcohol about his person and watery, bloodshot eyes.”
He took Hunter to Doctor’s Hospital where a nurse drew his blood at 2:12 a.m. — more than two hours after the 11:50 p.m. crash. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab analyst analyzed Hunter’s blood on April 2. His blood alcohol level registered at 0.21, reports show. The legal limit in Florida is .08.
Hunter’s attorney, Brett McIntosh, said his client’s behavior did not appear to be consistent with a blood alcohol content almost three times the legal limit.
“There is nothing in the report that indicates a significant level of intoxication by his conduct or actions,” McIntosh said. “There is no statement about him stumbling, staggering or acting in any way inappropriately.”
After the hospital, Yock transported Hunter back to the crash scene, where he was Mirandized and refused to give a statement to troopers.
James Hunter and Braselton also refused. But earlier in the night, they had already given written statements. In them, they wrote that Hunter was driving home to Bradenton and veered off the road to avoid striking a deer.
Also at the scene, troopers photographed an open Michelob Ultra Beer bottle inside the truck and “numerous Michelob Ultra beer bottles and cans” surrounding the truck, where it came to a stop after it overturned.
In July, a witness told troopers Hunter, his brother James, Braselton and Garrity had been at his house in Nokomis on the night of the crash. The witness said he’d observed Hunter drinking that night. The witness said he believed Hunter brought the alcohol with him to his home.
Hunter surrendered to authorities Thursday after the Sarasota office of the 12th Judicial Circuit obtained a warrant for him. He was released from the Sarasota County jail on $25,000 bond.
A state champion during his playing days at Southeast High School, Hunter was named Braden River’s first head football coach in March 2005.
In April, he resigned from that job.
In August, Hunter resigned his position as a physical education teacher at Braden River High.