Strawberry Arrested After Accident
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Darryl Strawberry, the suspended New York Yankees outfielder who has battled cancer and drug abuse, was jailed Monday after hitting a street sign and then running into a vehicle stopped at a red light.
Strawberry, who had cancer surgery last month, ``blacked out″ at the wheel from prescription medication while driving to a probation officer supervising him since a cocaine conviction in April 1999, said the outfielder’s lawyer, Joseph Ficarrotta.
``He took some kind of medication and that apparently caused some reaction and made him pass out,″ said Ficarrotta. ``Where in the sequence he blacked out I don’t know.″
Strawberry, 38, was taken into custody at gunpoint by an off-duty officer who saw the collisions and was held in the Hillsborough County Jail without bail, pending a court hearing Tuesday.
``He seemed very tired and very drained,″ Ficarrotta said after visiting Strawberry. ``He’s recuperating from some very severe cancer surgery. He seemed very weak and very tired.″
The eight-time All-Star faces two misdemeanor charges, driving while impaired and leaving the scene of an accident with damage, plus two counts of probation violation, which normally would not let him go free on bond.
Ficarrotta planned to ask Hillsborough Circuit Judge Florence Foster, the judge who placed Strawberry on probation, to consider releasing him Tuesday to his home or to set bond. Strawberry is not required to attend the hearing.
Strawberry told officers he had taken the sleeping medication Ambien, said Hillsborough County sheriff’s spokesman Rod Reder. Ficarrotta said Strawberry also has prescriptions for the narcotic painkillers Percocet and Vicodin.
Strawberry failed a field-sobriety test but a blood-alcohol test showed no alcohol in his system. He volunteered a urine sample for testing, and those results will take days.
Strawberry, driving a sport utility vehicle, was accused of scraping a road sign warning of an upcoming curve while weaving through traffic north of Tampa and rear-ending another SUV at a red light. Police said he wasn’t speeding when he struck the sign at about 9 a.m. EDT.
When Strawberry tried to drive on after hitting the SUV, Sgt. Anthony Kolka pulled over and confronted Strawberry with his pistol drawn. The officer said he banged on the window to get Strawberry’s attention.
``He just wanted to know: `What did I do? What did I do?′ like he didn’t know what happened,″ Kolka said. ``He said he didn’t know he hit the car or the sign.″
The officer, heading home in an unmarked car, said he was unaware the driver was Strawberry until a passerby told him.
``I wasn’t thinking about who the person was. My idea was to get him out of the car, get him secured,″ Kolka said. ``All I knew was the vehicle needed to be stopped to see what the problem was.″
The officer said he drew his gun ``for my own safety and everybody else’s safety.″ When Strawberry opened his door, the officer said he reached inside, made sure the car was in park and pulled Strawberry out.
``He was quiet and calm,″ Kolka said.
Tanya Whitaker, 32, the driver of the SUV Strawberry was accused of hitting, said the player tried to drive around her after the impact, and that’s when she saw the deputy first trying to stop him. She said the deputy beat on Strawberry’s window to get him to halt.
``He had the gun to Darryl’s window. He was trying to leave,″ said Whitaker, of nearby Land O’Lakes. ``Once the police officer realized who he (Strawberry) was, he said, ’You aren’t going to run from this one.‴
Damage totaled about $1,000 to Whitaker’s car and $1,800 to Strawberry’s vehicle.
Strawberry was suspended for most of last season after his arrest in Tampa in April 1999 on drug and solicitation charges.
He pleaded no contest and was sentenced in May 1999 to 18 months probation. He was suspended from baseball for a year in February, a month after he tested positive for cocaine
Strawberry, who had surgery for colon cancer in 1998 and for a stomach tumor last month, has follow-up doctor’s appointments scheduled in Tampa and New York, where he had his latest operation.
``He’s very serious and just anxious to hopefully get out and continue his treatment. It’s a serious thing, and he knows that,″ Ficarrotta said.
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