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Cops: High on pills, man says he let son, 8, drive

BRADENTON — Police arrested a man on a child abuse charge after he let his 8-year-old son drive his car in a parking lot, where the boy nearly hit two pedestrians and crashed into several trees.

Mark Andrew Belanger, 34, told Bradenton Police he was on Xanax pills when he allowed his son to drive in the parking lot of the former Albertsons store in the 4600 block of Cortez Road. He told police he was “feeling woozy and didn’t want to drive,” the police report said.

The boy got behind the wheel and almost hit two pedestrians in the parking lot, before crashing into a tree shattering the driver’s side rear window of the car. The boy then crashed a second time into a tree, damaging the car’s radiator, the police report said.

When police arrived, Belanger fell to the ground while being questioned after he dropped a card from his wallet. The police report said he slammed his face on the pavement, leaving a gash on the bridge of his nose.

The boy told police his father was taking “liquid medicine in order to feel better,” before pointing to a bottle of whiskey in their car.

Officers took Belanger into custody and charged him with child abuse and permitting an unlicensed driver to drive, but he didn’t go to jail without a fight. Police shot him with pepper spray after he tried to kick out windows on a patrol car.

Belanger was being held in the Manatee County jail without bond.