On Wednesday, December 17, 2014, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Traffic homicide deputies arrested 46-year-old Gary Don Carroll, 5470 10th Street SE, Highland City, charging him with Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Fatality, and Tampering with Evidence. The crash occurred on Saturday, February 22, 2014, at about 1:30 am.
The victim, 32-year-old Eric Wayne Pope of Lakeland, wearing a reflective vest, was riding his bicycle, with lights on it, north on the east edge of Reynolds Road near Lisa Lane when he was struck from behind by an unknown vehicle. Pope was carried on the vehicle or thrown approximately 100 feet, and then landed in a ditch. He was declared deceased on-scene.
Witnesses in the area reported hearing the crash. A possible suspect vehicle was described as a pickup truck.
The next day, the PCSO received multiple tips providing information identifying Carroll as the driver of a red 1985 Chevrolet pickup truck, and information about where the truck could be found.
Carroll’s truck was located at a business on Fish Hatchery Road, and deputies discovered that the hood and headlights had been replaced. At the time, Carroll advised deputies he had hit a deer. The original hood and headlights were later located and recovered.
Through the investigation, PCSO Traffic deputies obtained paint chips from the crash and forwarded them to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory for analysis.
On Monday, December 15, 2014, deputies received the results of the paint chip analysis from FDLE, comparing a small paint chip embedded in the bumper of the suspect vehicle, to the paint on the back of the victims bicycle. The analysis, coupled with other evidence linked Carroll’s truck to the crash scene, and confirmed Carroll was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the crash.
On Wednesday, December 17, 2014, deputies obtained an arrest warrant and responded to Carroll’s last known address. Upon their arrival, deputies learned Carroll wasn’t at the residence but was expected to return later in the evening.
When Carroll returned to the residence, family members warned Carroll he was being sought by law enforcement and he fled. Deputies observed Carroll attempting to flee the area, and additional units responded locating Carroll in the area of County Road 540A, where he was stopped and taken into custody.
Carroll was booked into the Polk County Jail on no bond.
Carroll has an extensive criminal arrest history which includes six felony, four misdemeanor, six unknown level arrests, and two failures to appear.
He has been in the Polk County jail 10 times before his current arrest.
Carroll was charged with pointing a laser light at a PCSO helicopter pilot in July 2012. He received probation for that arrest.
His previous crimes also include Auto Theft, Battery, DWLSR, Burglary, Grand Theft, Harassing Phone Calls, Armed Robbery, Battery-DV, Molest a Coin Operated Machine, and Drug related charges.