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Man faces 10 charges as trooper recovers

An FDLE spokesman says more charges could be filed in the shooting of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published January 7, 2005


TAMPA - As Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Brandon McElderry recovers from a .40-caliber gunshot wound to his thigh, the man accused of shooting him Wednesday during a traffic stop faces 10 charges stemming from the bloody confrontation.

Darian Maurice Wright, a sex offender with a history of violence against law enforcement, faces charges of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, aggravated battery on an officer, obstructing an officer with violence, grand theft of a firearm, depriving an officer of the means to protect himself, fleeing police, armed carjacking, burglary of a structure, giving a false name to law enforcement and possession of cannabis.

Wright, 28, also was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear in court last month. The court appearance was scheduled after Wright's October arrest on charges of failing to report as a sex offender, according to county jail and court records.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the circumstances leading to the confrontation between Wright and McElderry, a two-year veteran of the patrol.

FDLE spokesman Rick Morera said Wright could face additional charges, depending on what FDLE agents find after sifting through evidence and witness statements.

McElderry had stopped him at N 10th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for having an expired temporary tag on a red 1992 two-door Chevrolet.

Trooper Larry Coggins, spokesman for FHP, said Wright got out of the car and attacked McElderry, then ran into southeast Seminole Heights, a neighborhood of 1920s bungalows.

At E North Bay Street and N Ninth Street, McElderry caught up to him, but Wright continued fighting, Coggins said.

The "knock-down, drag-out" fight ended with Wright grabbing McElderry's department-issued .40-caliber Beretta and shooting McElderry in the upper right thigh, said police spokesman Joe Durkin.

McElderry called for help on his radio as Wright ran away, and Tampa police caught Wright a few minutes later in the 900 block of E Chelsea Street, Durkin said. Witnesses later said they saw Wright jumping a fence to flee from police, and two landscapers said Wright tried to steal their pickup in the 900 block of E Genesee Street.

After his capture, Wright initially gave his name as Tony Livingston, police say.

Wright was convicted in 1996 of two separate cases of violence against law officers in Hillsborough County - one in March 1995 and the other in March 1996, according to Florida prison records. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

The sentence came five months after Wright was ordered to serve nearly four years in prison for committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 16, according to prison records.

In June 2003, Wright was released from Lake Correctional Institution.

Coggins said McElderry, 30, is recovering at Tampa General Hospital and might be there a few more days.

His fellow troopers and other law enforcement officers hailed him as a hero for continuing to fight off his attacker and giving police a description of the man even after he was shot and bitten on the cheek.

"He did his job," Coggins said. "We're just happy he's okay."

[Last modified January 7, 2005, 01:29:20]


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