Officer OK After Ride, Fall From Vehicle
By VALERIE KALFRIN, The Tampa Tribune
Published: February 26, 2008

Related Video: http://vettetube.com/view_video.php?...45dcbad5c4ccf6

TAMPA, FL - For about 30 seconds, a Tampa police pilot and an observer watched as an officer clung to a Corvette speeding west on Beach Street, radioing the car's every move.

The video released Monday shows Officer Kiet Truong spilling away from the car and rolling along the pavement just before the North Armenia Avenue intersection.

"He's down! Officer down!" the observer in the helicopter yelled.

What started as a check on a suspicious vehicle about 11 p.m. Sunday turned into an officer being dragged for about four blocks by a fugitive driving a stolen car, police said.

Truong, 32, suffered only scrapes and bruises, police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said. "We feel very fortunate around here today," she said.

Truong was recovering at home on Monday, Davis said.

Police charged the driver, Legrand Pratt Jr., 42, of Charlotte, N.C., with felony attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, felony aggravated fleeing to elude, felony grand theft auto and misdemeanor driving without a valid license, among other charges.

Pratt was being held without bail at Orient Road Jail.

Davis said Pratt was wanted on a warrant from York County, S.C., for "possession of a vehicle and breach of trust over $5,000." The charge is related to Pratt leaving a stolen car at a lot and test-driving a 1994 Chevrolet Corvette, which he never returned, she said.

The Corvette is the car involved in the incident with Truong, Davis said.

Pratt's sister, Angela Matthews, 32, of Charlotte, said in a phone interview that Pratt had come to Tampa to find a job in construction or auto repair. The family has cousins in Tampa, she said.

She did not know of Pratt's arrest until told by a reporter. However, she said, "He does have a tendency to get into trouble."

Public records show Pratt has been incarcerated in Florida and in North Carolina.

He served two sentences here for felony grand theft of a motor vehicle, most recently being released in 2006. In North Carolina, his criminal background dates from 1982, when he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of pointing a gun and escalated to serving nearly six years in prison after being classified as a habitual felon.

Truong, who joined the Tampa Police Department in 2006, and Officer David Bradley encountered Pratt about 11 p.m. Sunday near West Beach Street and North Rome Avenue after the police pilot spotted a 1994 Chevrolet Corvette driving erratically, Davis said.

The officers found the Corvette pulled over in a residential area. Truong stayed with the driver, who had left the driver's-side door open, while Bradley checked the man's identification, Davis said.

Pratt became nervous and reached toward the ignition, so Truong struggled with him over the keys, Davis said. Pratt managed to start the car and drove off with Truong hanging on, Davis said.

More police cruisers joined the pursuit, which lasted about a minute, Davis said.

After Truong fell away from the car, another officer used an "immobilization technique," tapping the Corvette with his patrol car to stop the driver, Davis said.

The Corvette crashed into a telephone pole at Himes Avenue and West Braddock Street, where it caught fire, Davis said. No one was injured in the blaze.

Matthews said her brother in the past has traded drugs for the use of a person's car, which later was reported stolen. She said he told her two weeks ago he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"He's never done anything to hurt anyone intentionally. He's been more self-destructive," she said.

Reporter Valerie Kalfrin can be reached at (813) 259-7800 or vkalfrin@tampatrib.com.