ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – What began as a security detail at a funeral Saturday turned into a criminal investigation, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said.
A 27-year-old man and a 25-year-old man, both of St. Augustine, are facing charges following an incident captured on multiple cellphone videos.
According to an offense report, a deputy was asked to sit out front of a funeral home on Old Dixie Highway to provide security for people attending the funeral of Kyle Stein.
The offense report states that after the funeral service ended, several of Stein’s friends were loudly revving their engines before relocating to a cemetery on Old Moultrie Road. It was at that location where the deputy said he witnessed several people who attended the funeral doing driving recklessly and doing burnouts in the street before speeding away from him.
The report also states that approximately 25 people were standing in the road. Video shows multiple people standing in the road with cellphones, recording the burnouts and cheering on the drivers before the deputy arrived. The video also shows large plumes of smoke from the burnouts that appeared to make visibility very poor.
“There were a lot of spectators on the side of the road, cheering and videotaping, and had a car gone out of control, it could have been bad for everybody," said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, who reviewed the videos. "Someone could have been seriously injured because the smoke creates blind spots for drivers in the oncoming traffic. When you create that blind spot, not only can’t you see what’s in front of you, you can’t see what’s on the side of you, which was filled with a bunch of pedestrians that were standing on the side of the road.”
The deputy wrote in the report that he exited his SUV squad vehicle and asked the crowd to move off the roadway for their own safety when the 27-year-old man asked, “'Can I do a burnout too?'” The deputy said that he told the 27-year-old no and threatened to give him a ticket if he did. According to the deputy, that’s when the 27-year-old pulled in front of the patrol vehicle and began performing a burnout. The deputy said that when he jumped back in his patrol vehicle to initiate a traffic stop, a crowd of people got in front of his patrol SUV. In one of the cellphone videos, a man wearing a red shirt, blue jeans, a baseball cap and sunglasses is seen leaning on the front bumper as the deputy’s SUV slowly moves forward. Investigators said the man leaning on the front bumper was identified as the 25-year-old man, who -- according to the report -- was also encouraging the 27-year-old to speed away while he prevented the deputy from chasing the 27-year-old’s truck.
“The officer used great judgment in not trying to overpower the person on the bumper,” Jefferson said.
According to the report, once the 27-year-old drove off, the 25-year-old got out of the way of the deputy’s vehicle. The deputy wrote that he stopped the 27-year-old on Kings Estate Road, where the 27-year-old told the deputy, “'Man, I had to. That was my friend’s funeral and I ran because I didn’t know what to do.'” The deputy said the 27-year-old apologized several times and asked not to be arrested. According to the report, that’s when the deputy had to leave the 27-year-old to back up another deputy who was dealing with a growing crowd on Old Moultrie Road. The deputy wrote that by the time he got back to assist the other deputy, the crowd was no longer yelling “'F--- the police’ and doing burnouts."
Deputies later found cellphone videos of the incident posted on several social media pages and screen-recorded those videos as evidence.
A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office told News4Jax on Tuesday that warrants were obtained for the arrests of the 27-year-old, identified as Lonnie Milligan, and the 25-year-old, identified as Steven Jones.
The spokesperson said Jones was taken into custody Tuesday morning on charges of obstruction and disorderly conduct, and deputies will be taking Milligan into custody on a charge of eluding law enforcement.