BRADENTON, FL — Bodycam footage and other evidence released by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office have shed some light on an April 20 traffic accident involving Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse.
The politician crashed his truck into a tree near his Bradenton home in the Greyhawk Landing community around 5:30 p.m., according to evidence from MCSO.
Deputies didn’t arrest the commissioner the day of the crash. Instead, they let his wife drive him to their nearby home while she came back to the scene to collect his traffic citation and have the truck towed, evidence shows.
More than two weeks later, he’s now at the center of a DUI investigation related to this single-vehicle accident. Kruse could still face charges after the state attorney’s office reviews evidence submitted by the sheriff’s office.
“All evidence is in the hands of the State Attorney. The SAO will determine if formal charges will be filed,” Randy Warren, MCSO public information officer, told Patch.
The offense codes included on the sheriff’s office incident report from the crash are DUI alcohol or drugs — noted as the primary offense — and public traffic accident.
Reviewing the bodycam footage from deputies that responded to the crash, MCSO Investigator Benjamin Main noted, “George appears to have glassy eyes, slurred speech, clammy wet skin and droopy eyelids.”
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In the recording of the 911 call automatically made from the crash notification system in Kruse’s truck, he didn’t respond to the operator at times. Then, minutes into the call, his wife, who identified herself as Jessica Kruse, can be heard asking him to leave the truck.
“Hey, are you okay? I need you to get in my car. I need you to get in my car right now,” she said.
When asked for the location of the crash, Jessica told dispatchers, “We’re good.”
Bodycam footage recorded by Lieutenant Nicholas Pruitt, the first to respond to the scene after motorists alerted him to the crash, showed George Kruse in the back of his wife’s SUV by the time he arrived. (A portion of Pruitt’s bodycam footage can be viewed below.)
Jessica, who was driving behind her husband in a separate vehicle, told the deputy that he swerved, hitting the tree and setting off the airbag, the video shows.
“Now, he’s kind of a little out of it,” she is heard saying.
George said, “I was coming through the gate, and somebody cut me off and blew right past me. And I tried to, like, hit my breaks and curve around them and just cut a curb.”
During his investigation, Main found that the commissioner told a different version of this story to his Progressive insurance claim agent. George told the agent that he swerved to miss a small animal in the road, which caused him to hit the tree, according to the MCSO investigative report.
Patch has reached out to both George and Jessica Kruse but has not yet heard back. This story will be updated with any comments they may have.
George commented on the crash to WFLA, saying, “This is under investigation. I’ve had this discussion before… The sheriff’s department does an excellent job. I respect what the sheriff’s department does. It is being passed to Ed Brodsky and the State Attorney’s Office.. I respect what he does. Both of them are going to do their job. I am not going to interfere with their investigation and whatever the outcome is, as what we will deal with at that point in time.”
In his bodycam footage, Pruitt told dispatchers, “The driver is impaired of something, however, he was not in the vehicle when I got on scene. He was in his wife’s vehicle.”
The lieutenant later told Jessica that her husband was “obviously impaired” and “you need to just talk to him about that.”
The commissioner was likely speeding as well, he added, noting the “crush depth” of the truck against the tree.
“That kind of crush depth would not have happened if he was only traveling 25 mph,” he said in the video.
Because George wasn’t in his truck and no witnesses stayed to give deputies a statement, Pruitt is also heard in the video telling the commissioner’s wife that she could take her husband home.
In his bodycam footage, the lieutenant is never seen giving George a Breathalyzer or conducting a field sobriety test. Patch reached out to Warren for comment but hasn’t received a response.
In a comment provided to Main during his investigation, Pruitt, wrote, “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.”
A capias arrest request was submitted to the state attorney’s office “with this new evidence in mind,” he added.
When speaking with her minutes after the crash, Pruitt also told Jessica, according to bodycam footage, “I know who your husband is, and this could have turned out very badly and he just needs to be more cognizant of that.”
He added, “The benefit here is that nobody of the seven people that stopped and told me about this (accident) stayed to say he was in that car. Had that been the case, my traffic units would have been here working the crash, working the DUI, and he would have gone to jail.”