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East County Thursday, May 5, 2022 2 months ago

Manatee County Sheriff's Office releases report on commissioner's suspected DUI investigation

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A deputy reported that George Kruse appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

This article has been updated to add body cam footage and a photo of the car crash.

 

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputy at the scene of an April 20 one-car crash on GreyHawk Boulevard in east Bradenton reported that Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse, who was driving the pickup involved in the accident, appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance.

That was just one of the revelations that came out of a Manatee County Sheriff's Office report that was released Thursday morning.The report had been released earlier but was so redacted that any information was incomprehensible.

The Sheriff's Office issued a release Thursday morning saying it has closed its traffic crash investigation involving Kruse and therefore has released the heavily redacted information.

“Review of this traffic crash revealed additional evidence that was not available on the evening of April 20.” Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said in the release. “It was important for us to examine this additional evidence and determine who was in physical control of the vehicle when the crash occurred, and to what extent the driver was impaired.”

The case has been forwarded to the State Attorney's office, which will determine if charges will be filed.

Kruse Comments

Kruse, who said he hit a curb and then a tree, said May 3 that he thought the investigation was "entirely political" and said there were no drugs or alcohol involved.

However, both the deputy at the scene and subsequent investigation said that evidence indicated otherwise.

On Thursday, Kruse added additional comments.

"The Sheriff's Department does an excellent job," he said. "It's being passed to Ed Brodsky at the State Attorney's Office, and I respect what he does. Both of them are going to do their job. I'm not going to interfere with their investigation, and whatever their outcome is, is what we'll deal with at that point in time, but I'm not going to opine on or speak to a legal investigation at this stage. It's not in my best interest, and I will say it's not in their best interest because I want them to be able to do their diligence and their investigation without all of the distraction. I trust Sheriff Wells, I trust State Attorney Brodsky to do a proper job and a fair job, and we will move forward when they have completed their investigation."

 

Sheriff's Office Reports

Here are excerpts from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office report, from Lt. Nicholas Pruitt, who was at the scene.

"At approximately (7:42 p.m.), I was approached by several motorists indicating a white truck had wrecked into a tree. I inquired with three of the drivers as to how many vehicles and persons were involved. All gave similar statements, advising one vehicle was involved and the driver’s whereabouts were unknown.

"As I arrived on scene I observed a female, later identified as Jessica Kruse, standing in the roadway behind her vehicle which was parked in the road. I obtained a brief statement from her as to her knowledge of what occurred. She then advised that the vehicle's owner, George Kruse, was seated in her vehicle. I met with Mr. Kruse and I immediately observed him to have watery eyes, slurred speech, and was in an overall confused state. There was a solution, possibly water, on his shirt that he could not explain. When asked about this he stated, 'Stress.'

"Mrs. Kruse gave an excuse that it was 'from the airbag.' I advised that air bags don't have water in them and he offered no other explanation. I conducted a preliminary crash investigation for the crash itself. It was learned that another vehicle reportedly sped around Mr. Kruse's vehicle, so in an attempt to keep from hitting the other vehicle, he slammed on his breaks. Due to the roadways being of gravel and loose dirt, he lost control of his vehicle. The vehicle left the road and stuck a tree head on. The front seat airbags deployed, rendering the vehicle inoperable requiring it to be towed. During my observations of the vehicle's interior, I observed a can of soda water in the driver's seat. This explained Mr. Kruse's shirt being wet. I relayed my observations of impairment to a traffic unit and also advised that we had no independent witness for the crash or that saw Mr. Kruse in control of the vehicle. It was my assumption that Mrs. Kruse could not be used as witness due to a conflict of interest. I requested a patrol unit respond to complete a traffic crash report. Mrs. Kruse took Mr. Kruse home and returned in order to coordinate a tow for the vehicle. I passed on my findings to patrol and left the area.

"On April 22, I learned that the original 911 call had significant information within the call. It appeared that Mr. Kruse's vehicle collision alert system called 911 upon impact and began recording Mr. Kruse's actions and conversations in the moments after the crash. I reviewed the 911 chronology log and found that a male was in the vehicle immediately after the crash and sounded intoxicated. He was slurring his words and not responding at times. A few minutes into the call a female can be heard trying to get the male to get out of the vehicle. The female refuses to give her location and says, 'We're good' and that they don't need deputies to respond. The female also tells the male to get into her vehicle. The female identifies herself as Jessica Kruse. Once in the other vehicle the male says, 'I can't believe I did this.' At no time does the male identify himself. I requested a copy of the dispatched call recording for further clarification. Near the end of the call recording you can hear me open the door of the vehicle and address Mr. Kruse and ask if he is alright and if he can tell me what happened. That is when he gives his account of events and the recoding stops.

"The information in the recording along with me contacting Mr. Kruse at the end of the recording with no obvious interruption in the call recording would lead a reasonable person to surmise that Mr. Kruse was in active physical control of the vehicle at the time of the crash. And per my observations was under the influence of an unknown substance."

No field sobriety or other alcohol related tests were taken. A subsequent investigation began the next day. 

 

Follow-up Investigation

Here are excerpts from the subsequent report by Sheriff's Office investigator Benjamin Main.

"On April 21, I was tasked with responding to the Greyhawk Landing subdivision in Bradenton, in reference to a traffic crash which had occurred the previous day at approximately (7:34 p.m.). Prior to responding, I viewed Lt. Pruitt’s body worn camera video of the incident. Doing so provided me the opportunity to observe the specific pickup truck involved in the crash and where the crash occurred. I also obtained and reviewed a call for service screen from the Computer Automated Dispatch program, which provided a time frame relevant to when the crash occurred. Captured on the BWC footage is Lt. Pruitt’s interaction with a subject identified as George Kruse. In the reviewed video, the footage shows George Kruse seated in the back of the SUV belonging to his wife, Jessica Kruse. George appears to have glassy eyes, slurred speech, clammy wet skin, and droopy eyelids. Jessica frequently interjects to Lt. Pruitt’s questions and provides answers for George, and if not, would offer a leading explanation. At one point, when Lt. Pruitt comments on George’s wet shirt, she touches the shirt then smells her hand. Towards the end of the BWC footage, Lt. Pruitt confronts Jessica with his assumptions of George’s inebriation and level of intoxication, explaining to her he is 'obviously impaired' and 'there is no reason he should have been driving.' Jessica never denies these accusations. 

"Further review of the 911 call revealed a dispatcher speaking to a single male, who confirmed he was involved in a vehicle accident. The male’s speech is slurred but acknowledges he is ok and uninjured. The male then stops responding to questions. Suddenly a female is heard say 'get in my car.' The 911 dispatcher transferred the call to an MCSO dispatcher who continues to try and solicit a response. The female is then heard telling the male 'I need you to get in my car. I need you to get in my car right now.' The female then engages in dialogue with the dispatcher, telling the dispatcher she is sorry and 'we’re good.' She advised law enforcement response is not needed as the situation is 'totally good.' She identifies herself as Jessica Kruse. The line then goes silent with no parties speaking although rustling can be heard in the background. Jessica Kruse is heard saying 'in the back, in the back,' and loud music is heard over the open line, followed by what sounds like a car door closing. The line remains open until Lt. Pruitt engages the subject in conversation. The audio recording terminates with the rest of the interaction being recorded on Lt. Pruitt’s BWC. It is my opinion that the voice in the 911 recorded audio is the same voice of George Kruse captured on Lt. Pruitt’s BWC. Additionally, it is my opinion that the female voice, who tells George Kruse to get into her car, is the voice of Jessica Kruse depicted on Lt. Pruitt’s BWC.

"I obtained and reviewed Deputy (Leonel) Garcia’s BWC footage, who responded to conduct the traffic crash investigation. Upon meeting with Lt. Pruitt, Lt. Pruitt informs Deputy Garcia of the facts and circumstances of the crash. Lieutenant Pruitt tells Deputy Garcia he believes Jessica Kruse is lying about the crash. He points out his investigation to include tire marks and the amount of damage sustained to the front of the truck as being inconsistent with the information provided by Jessica and George Kruse. Lt. Pruitt explains to Deputy Garcia that George Kruse is intoxicated was 'obviously drinking' and Jessica Kruse is returning to the scene, after taking George home. He tells Deputy Garcia that both Jessica and George Kruse have made admissions that George Kruse was the driver of the crashed truck. While conversing with Jessica, she tells Deputy Garcia she was not in the truck with George. She explained she was a 'little ways back,' and suspected he was going 30 mph. She proffered she believed that he was 'shaken up.'

"On April 26, I learned Lt. Pruitt had completed a capias request in reference to Geroge Kruse for the charge of driving under the influence and forwarded it to the State Attorney’s Office for review. I contacted Misdemeanor Division Chief Darleen Ragoonanan to advise her of my findings thus far."

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