A Lynn Haven man who fled a traffic stop at speeds topping 120 mph was sentenced to 8 years in prison Thursday after being found guilty at trial, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.
A jury deliberated just over 20 minutes Thursday before finding Lee Forzon Baker, 38, guilty as charged of Fleeing or Attempting to Elude (High Speed Reckless), Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Cocaine, and misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana.
Prosecutor JP Ferreira asked for prison time, telling Circuit Judge Brantley Clark that Baker endangered the public during the chase, and that pursuing officers showed great restraint at the end. He also provided evidence the defendant has 8 previous felony convictions.
“Actions speak louder than words. It was Mr. Baker’s actions that turned a traffic infraction into the criminal case that we are here for today,” Ferreira told jurors during his closing arguments. “The reason he was fleeing is he knew what he was carrying in the back of the car, he knew he had those drugs.”
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After announcing his sentence, Judge Clark addressed the officers – Springfield Police Officer Justin Elkins and Bay County Sheriff’s Office deputy Robert Hires – who took the defendant into custody after he wrecked. Testimony showed the officers had their weapons drawn and were ordering the defendant to remain on the ground, but he ignored them and climbed back into his vehicle. The officers were able to remove him from the vehicle without injury.
“I will say one thing,” Clark said after directing attention to the officers. “It would be a good thing if every law enforcement officer showed the restraint that these officers in this case showed. It could have ended differently.”
Ferreira and co-prosecutor Frank Sullivan called Elkins, Hires and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst as witnesses. Ferreira also entered body cam and in-car video from police that proved the defendant was pulled over by Springfield Police Officer Justin Elkins on Oct. 7, 2023.
The evidence showed the defendant was driving a Dodge sedan out of a mobile home park on North Everitt Avenue when Elkins pulled him over for failing to stop at the stop sign. Fifty seconds later as Elkins was ordering the defendant out of the vehicle, he fled. The pursuit led across U.S. 231 at speeds topping 120 mph before the defendant crashed into a ditch, and then back onto the roadway missing a wheel. He came to a stop a short distance away.
Basford thanked the Springfield Police Department for its proactive actions, and Officer Elkins and Deputy Hires for their actions during the pursuit.
For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 850-381-7454.