Bodycam Footage and 911 Audio Released in Kruse Investigation

Dawn Kitterman
MANATEE COUNTY — On Thursday morning, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office released unredacted reports, 911 audio, and bodycam footage relating to a single-vehicle accident involving Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse. The accident occurred on April 20 at approximately 7:30 pm, but previously released information was limited to an MCSO incident investigation report that was heavily redacted.

In recent days, Kruse has made statements to local media outlets that the open investigation was "politically motivated" and a "witch hunt," stating that the incident was a minor accident and that he received only a careless driving citation. Kruse has not been arrested in connection with the crash and denies he was drinking at the time of the incident.

The evening of the accident, Kruse was presumably en route to his home in the Grayhawk Landing subdivision. While traveling on Grayhawk Boulevard, Kruse crashed his Ford F-150 pickup truck into a tree, on the opposite side of the road, well onto the grass median. 

The F150 pickup truck, having detected a collision and the deployment of the driver-side airbag, automatically placed an emergency call to the 9-1-1 Emergency Call Center. SYNC Emergency Assist is an emergency software installed in certain Ford vehicles, similar to OnStar. SYNC Assist works by connecting through the Bluetooth of the driver’s cellular phone, to emergency dispatch operators. 



The 9-1-1 call records exist in two parts, the first being the initial call placed by the vehicle’s software connecting to the Emergency Call Center. The second portion of the call is recorded by the MSO dispatch after ECC transfers the call to the Sheriff’s dispatch. Despite portions of the recording belonging to two different agencies, audio appeared to show the call was consistent without interruption during the transfer. 

In the first portion of the call (click here to listen), the vehicle’s software can be heard connecting to ECC, and, shortly thereafter, an ECC operator is heard on the line seeking to confirm whether there was an accident. After a brief delay, a male’s voice can be heard responding, "Everything’s okay, yeah, everything’s okay." The driver sounds to be slurring his words as he explains to the operator that he crashed while swerving to avoid another vehicle. 

When the operator attempts to confirm the location of the accident, the line goes quiet. The operator can be heard saying "hello, hello" multiple times, but is only answered by the faint sound of a clicking turn signal. The call then transfers to an MSO operator (click here to listen) who also can be heard attempting to get a response from anyone in the vehicle. 

After a short time without a response, there is the sound of someone moaning before a  woman’s voice can then be heard on the recording, "Hey, hey, you’re okay," the female voice says. "I need you to get into my car, I need you to get into my car right now," the female voice is heard saying before being interrupted by the dispatch operator. At one point in the 9-1-1 recording, the woman can be heard instructing someone to "get in the back." 

The woman, who eventually identifies herself as Jessica Kruse, Commissioner Kruse’s wife, proceeds to insist the MSO dispatch operator that "We’re good," and that it was only a "little fender bender." Jessica Kruse tells the operator that they are in not in need of assistance, and that the operator does not need to dispatch a deputy—something the operator informed Mrs. Kruse would need to be done. 

Beyond the 9-1-1 calls, bodycam footage from the initial responding officer, Lieutenant Pruitt, recorded Pruitt speaking with Commissioner Kruse from the backseat of his wife’s vehicle. Pruitt who was on the end of his patrol assignments, states that he was made aware of the accident by residents who had witnessed the disabled pickup truck. 

Bodycam: Audio begins at the 12-second mark of the video.

The footage from Pruitt’s bodycam appeared to show a visibly intoxicated Kruse. At multiple points, Pruitt can be heard acknowledging that that is his impression—that Kruse is intoxicated. Lieutenant Pruitt later says as much to the second responding officer, as well as to Mrs. Kruse near the end of the recording created from his bodycam. 

Mrs. Kruse initially told Pruitt that she was right behind her husband's vehicle but couldn't see anything that happened, but, near the end of the bodycam video, tells him that she was several minutes behind her husband's vehicle before happening upon the crash scene. According to the updated investigation report (click here to view), Kruse told his auto insurance carrier that the accident happened when he swerved to avoid an animal.

In less than 10 minutes' time from when Pruitt spoke with Kruse from the backseat of his wife’s vehicle, and prior to the second officer's arrival, Mrs. Kruse asked Pruitt whether she could take her husband home to "settle down" and return on her own to deal with the incident. Pruitt agreed to allow the commissioner to leave the scene, and Mrs. Kruse left to take her husband home. 

Jim Delgado, a defense attorney who practices in Manatee County, said that he was very surprised by the way the incident was handled.

"The officer showed an extreme amount of investigative discretion," said Delgado, "a level that I have not seen with any of my clients in 25 years of practice."

Delgado said that single-vehicle crashes with no witnesses are already very difficult to successfully prosecute, but that the moment the responding officer failed to "switch hats" from accident investigation to criminal investigation (referred to as "accident report privilege") and allowed Kruse to be taken home, any chance of a successful prosecution went out the window, in his opinion.

Pruitt had requested that dispatch send a patrol deputy to work the accident scene, and Deputy Leonel Garcia soon arrived. While bringing Deputy Garcia up to speed upon his arrival, Lieutenant Pruitt can be heard telling Garcia that Mrs. Kruse is "lying" while also informing the deputy that Kruse, who had already left the scene prior to Garcia's arrival, is a county commissioner.

Despite both Mr. and Mrs. Kruse confirming to Lieutenant Pruitt that Mr. Kruse had been operating the vehicle at the time of the accident, Pruitt tells Deputy Garcia that he was unable to place Mr. Kruse in possession of the vehicle at the time of the accident and therefore did not proceed with a DUI investigation before allowing Kruse to leave the scene, despite judging him to have been clearly impaired. Garcia ultimately issued Kruse a citation for careless driving.

In the since unredacted portion of the Sheriff’s Incident Investigation report, Pruitt wrote: 

"On the day of the original event, upon making contact with George Kruse, I observed him to have glassy watery eyes, slurred speech, droopy eyelids, clammy skin, thick tongued, and all around appeared confused. My training and experience led me to a conclusion that George Kruse was under the influence of an unknown substance. At no time could I smell an odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath or his person. I initially observed Mr. Kruse in a seated position. It was not until later that I observed him standing. During that observation, I did not see him sway, appear uneasy on his feet, or use any object to assist him to stand. A field sobriety test nor a breath test was administered as there was no independent witness to the crash on scene that could place Mr. Kruse in the vehicle under active physical control of the vehicle. It was not learned until a few days later of the entire 911 call that clearly places Mr. Kruse inside the vehicle and the sole occupant. The capias request was completed with this new evidence in mind." 

TBT reached out to State Attorney Ed Brodsky, whose office is now in charge of the case, to see whether he planned to pursue charges. 

"This case continues to be an active investigation by our office," said Brodsky, "and I must respectfully decline to comment at this time." 

A spokesman for the MSO issued the following statement from Sherrif Rick Wells:

"Review of this traffic crash revealed additional evidence that was not available on the evening of April 20. It was important for us to examine this additional evidence and determine who was in physical control of the vehicle when the crash occurred, and to what extent the driver was impaired."

It had previously been reported in other outlets that an internal affairs investigation had been launched, presumably regarding the way the incident had been handled. However, MSO Public Information Officer Randy Warren responded to an inquiry on the status of that investigation by telling TBT, "We are not conducting an internal investigation connected to this case." 

Kruse was in a county commission meeting Thursday and not immediately available for comment. After the meeting, TBT was able to catch up with Kruse who offered the following.

"I’ve been in a land-use meeting all day while this came out," said Kruse. "I am aware of what came out, but I have not had an opportunity to review what’s come out. Even if I had reviewed it, while this is still being investigated and/or reviewed by the state attorney’s office, I am not commenting on any findings that they have or any decisions that they make."

CLICK ON ICONS TO SHARE
Reader Comments
JD Williams
MAY 10, 2022  •  Oddly enough, in Manatee County, if you get caught by a Red Light camera, you can deny it was you, but you have to tell them your vehicle was stolen and when you reported it stolen. Another way out of the ticket is if you are directed through the light by a LEO. The last and most interesting way is if someone else is driving your vehicle. You must identify them, the MCSO will send a ticket to the driver, WITHOUT placing them behind the wheel. So they can send tickets to people without placing them behind the wheel, but not in a case where there is an overabundance of evidence that he was behind the wheel. So, who did he say was driving the car? What ever happened to verbal admissions? Lucky that his wife is just as criminal minded as he and it seems the rest of the commissioners. Do you think they have no experience with this? Look at her statements and instructions to him. Manatee County has become a corrupt backwater county being overdeveloped by people that have a number of these and past commissioners in their pockets. The Manatee County Commissioners and the Sheriff's Department are an embarrassment to the people. NONE ever answer for their behavior.
Ron W.
MAY 06, 2022  •  Another investigative fact is: the automatic 911 call after the truck hit the tree, less than 30 seconds after the 911 call started, the commissioner's wife was commenting "we're ok" and even identified herself to the dispatcher. So, if she was 2 minutes behind him. Have her explain how she was able to responded to that 911 dispatcher ?
Ron W
MAY 06, 2022  •  It seems very odd that the wife indicated to the first responder, that she was two minutes behind her husband. Yet her vehicle was far beyond her husband's wrecked truck. It only makes sense that if your husband has crashed into a tree. That you'd immediately pull over as you approached the seen rather than going 50 to 100 ft past the accident. It's likely that she's not being truthful. It's likely she witnessed the crash...
The Queen of Diamonds
MAY 06, 2022  •  Did Scott Hopes leak all these details out since he blackmailed half of the county, no?
I live in corrupt town
MAY 06, 2022  •  No preferential treatment going on there. Vaccinegate, Code Enforcement, and now a DUI being swept under the rug by the sheriff’s department. No need to call the IG office because someone up there will narrow the scope of the investigation enough so that no one will be held accountable, well except for the new guy, the retired guy, or the whistleblower. Yes, let’s just blame her.
S O'Neil
MAY 06, 2022  •  How is there not an internal investigation into how this was handled? All of this is hard to believe and is another blow to the citizens of this county. We deserve better for our local government and elected officials. Thank you tbt!
Cat Lubin
MAY 06, 2022  •  ... on the opposite side of the road, grill wrapped partway around a tree, but his response is that it's "politically motivated" and a "witch hunt," ...?! Just, no.
Ima Alcoholic
MAY 06, 2022  •  Wow!!! Just look at his FB page! I lost count of how many pics are of him drinking. https://m.facebook.com/GeorgeKruse Even his profile pic! SMH
David Daniels
MAY 06, 2022  •  Words can't describe the anger for how this was handled by law enforcement. If he was black, he would likely have had a knee on his neck. It's just blatant good ol boy corruption and it stink to high freakin heaven. Shame on you, Commissioner. Another embarrassment that shows you are unfit. And shame to Sheriff Wells, who is himself part of the biggest good ol boy network in a long history of favoritism in Manatee County.
Jackie W.
MAY 06, 2022  •  WAIT...WHAT???? Kruse and his wife told Lieutenant Pruitt he was driving the pickup truck, Lieutenant Pruitt stated that Kruse was clearly impaired on something, glassy eyes, slurring words, thick tongue, clammy skin, etc. Am I missing something here? What more does Lieutenant Pruitt need to place Kruse behind the wheel of the crashed vehicle, and what additional observations does Lieutenant Pruitt, need to conduct a field sobriety test? To further mystify me, why did Lieutenant Pruitt allow Kruse to leave the scene in his wife's vehicle to be taken home to "settle down", then allow Mrs. Kruse to return on her own to deal with the incident. If that had been me, I'd still be in jail.
greg
MAY 06, 2022  •  Blatant white privilege and government corruption. Can you imagine a black man, of any stature or success, crashing into a tree like that, slurring his words to police, not being taken directly to jail? Fire everyone. Charge the wife, too.
John W.
MAY 06, 2022  •  I have lived in Manatee County almost 40 years and I drive drunk all the time and have never been stopped. But if I was to be stopped by the MSO there is now a precedent in place provided by MSO that I can rely on to provide on my behalf in court
Richard Correnti
MAY 06, 2022  •  George better call in the former Prez. He'll fix it!!! Patrolman,...you're fired!!! And these are the Commissioners who so passionately call for "transparency" and "clearing the swamp." Unfortunately, the Commission "IS THE SWAMP."
JW
MAY 06, 2022  •  Manatee county corruption continues. Code enforcement, county commissioners and sheriff department choosing when to follow rules. He could of killed someone. DUI’s are serious and the wife knew that. Shameful on all levels.
Ty Jamison
MAY 06, 2022  •  I think Mr Kruse is about to get Madison Cawthorn’ed by his own team. We’ll see a wave of incriminating stuff coming out. If he can be forced out by mid summer; an election would be held to replace him. (State law says 28 months in advance of re-election.). Paymaster Beruff can get his final revenge against Kruse for getting briefly weak in the knees on firing Cheri Coryea. If Kruse were to accept responsibility, seek help and ask citizens for forgiveness; he would get it and could survive this and still be an effective commissioner. I’m not sure his ego will allow that however.
Sheridan Peterson
MAY 06, 2022  •  Kruse admitted to the responding off-duty officer that he was driving the car. Wife admitted he was driving the car. Officer then lets wife dig around in the car (removing evidence?) before she takes Kruse home - to their waiting kids. First officer then tells responding on-duty officer (who issued the careless driving citation) that wife is lying and Kruse was definitely impaired. Crimes we can see with our own eyes: DUI, obstructing an investigation, lying to police during an investigation, insurance fraud... what else did I miss?
George Mendez
MAY 06, 2022  •  The failure that occurred here was that they did not use a breathalyzer. There would be no question whether he was inebriated or not. Then, the only fact to be discovered would be whether or not he was driving.
Pam Hodges
MAY 06, 2022  •  As usual, the good ole boy system in Manatee County is alive and well. He should have been given a blood test! What a joke this county is. Remember this, you reap what you sow!
Mike
MAY 06, 2022  •  We have family living in this neighborhood. Someone could have been hurt or worse. This guy needs to man up and face the consequences.
Paul Finer
MAY 06, 2022  •  What if MADD finds out?
Jim Nestle
MAY 06, 2022  •  Mr.Kruse joins Vanessa Baugh and our school superintendent in a rogue’s gallery of corrupt manatee county politicians and employees. I did have respect for Sheriff Wells but now the press should ask him what his involvement was.
Paul Finer
MAY 06, 2022  •  A few news reports advise some of the witnesses who initially contacted the officer and called in have been identified. These witnesses are also relevant to the IA case about whether the responding officers followed procedures correctly. Such witnesses are also relevant to the insurance company about what appears to be a sizable claim. The insurance company will ask who was driving thetruck. There is also a state law accident report which asks who was driving and who was involved. In some sports games, Happy Go Lucky fans like to blurt NO HARM NO FOUL. This isn't the same.
Paul
MAY 06, 2022  •  The corruption is boundless. And haven't we seen this before? https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/2005/10/01/leaving-scene-of-car-crash-makes-proving-dui-tougher/28438587007/
Glenn
MAY 06, 2022  •  Any average citizen would have been handcuffed and taken to jail right then and there. This deputy that let the wife take the drunk home need to be fired. The drunk (corrupt commissioner) needs to resign and face DUI charges, classes, jail and fined. The wife needs to be charged with tampering with evidence. This corrupt county is so bad, really is disgusting the amount of corruption!!
Charlie
MAY 06, 2022  •  So now we have the most corrupt politician, in the most corrupt county, in the most corrupt state, with most corrupt law enforcement agency.
Randy Williams
MAY 05, 2022  •  You don't think that went all the way to Sheriff Rick Wells and State Attorney Ed Brodsky immediately? Those initial cops on the scene would be on the phone with their Sgt/Lt telling them about a VIP involved incident. That would've gone up the chain of command FAST! I bet within 10 minutes both Wells and Brodsky were discussing strategies to help Kruse. It looks like the Manatee County Sheriff's Office immediately initiated free damage control for the County Commissioner George Kruse. From the beginning, MSO released almost NO information, like heavily redacted police reports and "no comment due to an active investigation". Now they throw this weak recommendation to the State Attorney, who will probably say "there's not enough for a conviction" and drop it. As other commenters have pointed out, Citizen Joe Blow would not get the royal treatment. A first time DUI conviction costs just under $13,000 on average (nationally). That's a serious blow to someone living paycheck to paycheck, but if you're a Manatee County Commissioner, it's probably less than your monthly "campaign contributions" from developers like Carlos Beruff and Pat Neal. Had standard law enforcement procedures been followed, George Kruse would've been arrested and charged ASAP! Another disgusting and in-your-face example of the corruption that plagues Manatee County.
Krusen for a-Bruisin
MAY 05, 2022  •  Isn't this the same moron who got busted cheating on his wife a few months ago?
HK
MAY 05, 2022  •  So once again, if your an elected official in Manatee, you can get away with just about anything. This is disgraceful. He is lucky no one was hurt!


FACEBOOK COMMENT POSTING AND VIEWING BELOW