Brandon woman arrested for giving car keys to friend minutes before fatal DUI crash, Judd says

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  • Grady Judd
    Sheriff of Polk County, Florida, U.S.

Detectives with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Brandon woman on a culpable negligent manslaughter charge Wednesday after deputies said she gave car keys to an intoxicated friend minutes before that friend was involved in a fatal crash.

The arrest was the first of its kind in the county, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said during a news conference Thursday. Michelle English, 45, was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail on Wednesday and transferred to the Polk County Jail on Thursday.

English met her friend, 47-year-old Lucretia Bruno, at Brewlands Bar and Billiards in Lakeland around 4 p.m. Nov. 24, according to a sheriff’s office news release, About an hour later, they went to Lucky’s Sports, Oyster and Tiki Bar, where Bruno continued to drink.

Around 7 p.m., Bruno went to a Wawa gas station at 4328 U.S. 98 North in Lakeland, where she ordered a sandwich.

Bruno was swaying, unstable on her feet and struggled to pay with her credit card, and the clerk, who was concerned, tried to grab the keys from Bruno — but she snatched them back, according to the news release. Bruno then went into the convenience store bathroom, where she dropped her keys, authorities said.

A store employee had called the Lakeland Police Department to report an intoxicated person. However, when officers arrived, Bruno did not have her car keys with her and, therefore, they were not able to arrest her on a DUI charge because they could not prove she had control of a vehicle, according to the news release.

Police contacted English and asked her to pick up Bruno, who they said was too drunk to drive. English agreed to pick up Bruno. She did not show any signs of intoxication when she arrived, Judd said.

Officers watched English drive away from the store with Bruno in English’s vehicle, authorities said. However, after the officers left, English turned around and drove Bruno back to the Wawa store. An employee gave English the keys to Bruno’s car, thinking English was retrieving the vehicle, according to the sheriff’s office.

English gave the keys to Bruno, who got into her vehicle and drove off, deputies said. Minutes later, they said, Bruno struck and killed a Holiday man as he stood at the opened door of his vehicle, which was parked on the paved shoulder of Interstate 4 near Exit 28.

Bruno’s blood alcohol content was more than 0.2 percent, according to the sheriff’s office. In Florida, 0.08 is the legal limit to drive.

Bruno faces four DUI charges, including causing a death while driving under the influence. She was released from the Polk County Jail on Nov. 26 on a bond of $26,500.

Of English’s arrest, Judd said, “She directly contributed to the death of our victim by allowing Mrs. Bruno to have those keys and to drive away from the Wawa station.”

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