MANATEE — Bull hair still hung on engine parts and a blood stain marked the roadway on U.S. 41 near Rock Payne Road after a Palmetto Police Department officer’s patrol car struck and killed two black bulls on the way back from the Manatee County jail late Tuesday.
Officer Travis Ellison, who has been with the department for nearly four years, remained hospitalized at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg on Wednesday with a concussion, according to authorities.
Ellison’s marked 2007 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car struck two Brangus bulls belonging to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at about 11 p.m. in the 8500 block of U.S. 41, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
The pasture where the bulls wandered away from is in the 10000 block of U.S. 41. The sheriff’s office owns the bulls as a part of a farm operation to sustain food supply at the jail and provide work opportunities for inmates.
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The front of the car collided with the first bull, throwing the estimated 900-pound animal on to the hood and smashing in the windshield. The bull then went off the car and landed in the right lane.
The left front of the vehicle struck the second bull, causing the car to rotate and come to a rest in the left lane, according to a report.
The patrol car continued south for nearly 2,000 feet, where it moved across the center median and into northbound lanes of traffic before coming to rest about 340 feet away from the road.
Sergio Velasquez, of Ellenton, was driving a few minutes behind the patrol car in his 1994 Toyota Corolla when he came upon debris littering the roadway.
“I started hitting debris,” he said, recalling car parts and glass scattered across the pavement. “Then I saw a bumper — ‘What the heck?’ — As I’m switching lanes, I saw both bulls about a foot away.”
Velasquez said he made a U-turn and tried to flash his high-beam lights to warn motorists.
He called 911.
Emergency dispatchers called Ellison’s radio and he was able to talk, but eventually lost consciousness.
A man getting off work at Port Manatee didn’t see the warning, his car striking the bulls at about 65 mph and going airborne. He was uninjured.
“One of them was kicking after the Impala had gone over it,” said Velasquez, who followed the driver to make sure he was uninjured. “(The car) was covered in blood and both air bags deployed.”
He said a dump truck followed and then another car. The bulls were dead on scene.
“It was crazy. I couldn’t believe it. That would have been it for my little car,” he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a third bull was unaccounted for in the pasture where a total of eight bulls are kept in a fenced area. Motorists were advised by authorities to slow down as they searched.
The fence has been repaired, said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow.
“We’ll take steps to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Bristow said.