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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Debtor, his dog dodge bullets
He drives wildly through Pasco with Roxy by his side and a gunman in pursuit.
By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published July 22, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Christopher Prentice was sitting in his black Nissan Pathfinder Saturday morning in the Big Lots parking lot when Lewis Davis showed up in a white Dodge Caliber with a gun.
Prentice, 34, a painter from Thonotosassa, borrowed $200 from Davis, 30, of New Port Richey last Sunday, he said, so he could pay his car insurance. He agreed to pay back $250 by Friday. On Friday night, though, Prentice text-messaged Davis and said he was sorry but that he needed another week to pay him back.
Then came Saturday morning. Prentice saw the gun and hit the gas.
"I took off," he said.
After he tore out of the parking lot at U.S. 41 and State Road 54, the wild, high-speed chase went all over the place - on back roads between 41, 54 and Collier Parkway, and on those major, heavy-traffic roads, too. Prentice called 911 from Livingston Avenue, said Kevin Doll, a spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Prentice pushed the Pathfinder, he said, "as fast as it would go." The speedometer tops out at 120 mph.
He had his dog, a boxer named Roxy, in there with him.
"The crazier I drive," he said, "the happier she is."
The dog must have been pretty happy.
"I was jumping curbs, going the wrong way, blowing red lights, anything I could do to shake him," he said. "I broke every damn law there was. Literally. Without a doubt. There probably wasn't a ... traffic law I didn't break.
"How he kept up with me, I have no idea."
It should be noted that both men have criminal records. Prentice, who has a wolf tattooed on his left arm and two clowns tattooed on his right, has been arrested in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties and charged with things like writing bad checks, shoplifting, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and he was in prison for resisting arrest in late 2000 and early 2001.
Davis sold marijuana and cocaine in 1998 and did two years of house arrest.
Shot hits side mirror
On Saturday, Prentice described Davis as "a friend of a friend, an acquaintance of an acquaintance." He said he was in Pasco to see a girlfriend and that he didn't know how Davis tracked him down.
But now he was right behind him. Davis fired the gun at the sport utility vehicle, authorities said.
Prentice said he heard "several" shots. One of them hit and broke the glass on the driver's side mirror and then went out the front.
"Another foot," Prentice said, "he would've blowed my head off."
The chase wasn't long. It just felt like it.
"An eternity," Prentice said.
They all ended up in the same spot where it started, in the Big Lots parking lot, by a strip center near the rear. A gun, deputies said, was thrown in a stinky, green Dumpster behind - of all things - an insurance office. Deputies arrested Davis and put him in the back of a cruiser.
He was taken to the Pasco County Jail and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, shooting at a vehicle and discharging a firearm in public.
Prentice talked to a reporter while smoking a lot.
He said he needed the money because the housing market is so slow, and money's been low and he just needed some help with the car insurance.
"It wasn't like I ripped him off," he said. "I didn't think he'd react like this over a couple hundred bucks."
Gun found in trash
Over in the back seat of the cruiser, Davis looked sweaty and sullen, with his hands cuffed. He had on gray Air Jordan sneakers, white shorts and a white T-shirt that was sticking to his belly and chest. A deputy got a bottled water and poured some of it in Davis' mouth.
The cruiser door was cracked open just a bit.
A reporter asked Davis if all this was about money. About 200 bucks. He nodded his head yes.
He was asked if he wanted to tell his side of the story. He said no.
"Really," Davis said, "I ain't got nothing to say."
A forensic investigator climbed into the green Dumpster behind the insurance office and rooted around in the mess of white trash bags and pulled out a black gun and slipped it into a brown bag marked EVIDENCE.
Times photojournalist Lance Aram Rothstein and news researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this report. Michael Kruse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4617.