Retired EMT sentenced in Palmetto road rage death. Dragged victim for nearly 2 miles

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A retired EMT was sentenced to 30 years in prison for intentionally hitting a 32-year-old Palmetto man with his pickup truck in 2019, dragging him for nearly two miles and leaving him to die in the road.

John Thomas Cray, 50, claimed self-defense under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, arguing that he feared for his and his pregnant wife’s life. But Circuit Judge Matt Whyte denied Cray immunity under the law.

Cray entered a plea last week to charges of manslaughter with a weapon and leaving the scene of a deadly crash. He was sentenced 30 years in a Florida prison — the maximum penalty under Florida sentencing guidelines.

“I am pleased that the victim’s family was able to get justice for their loved one, which will surely help with their grief,” Assistant State Attorney Charlie Lawrence said in a statement.

At about 9:20 p.m. Dec. 6, 2019, Bradley John Yost was heading east on Bayshore Road just west of U.S. 41 in a 2018 Honda Accord, while Cray was driving behind him in a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado with his pregnant wife in the passenger seat. Yost was swerving back and forth and he kept slamming on the brakes.

The two men pulled over in a rage, and Yost approached Cray’s pickup truck. Cray then accelerated, knocking Yost down and running him over.

The victim’s foot got stuck in the pickup truck’s undercarriage and was dragged behind the truck for almost two miles as Cray intentionally drove into a ditch and back onto the road repeatedly.

Cray drove into the Terra Ceia RV Resort and stopped in front of his home, got out of the truck and later claimed he was checking his truck for damage and didn’t know where the victim was. He drove off again, going over speed bumps.

The victim’s body continued to be dragged as Cray headed south on U.S. 41. His foot finally became dislodged when Cray turned right 73rd Street East. Cray turned into the Shell Gas Station and checked his truck. Yost’s boot was still stuck underneath the truck.

Meanwhile, witnesses on U.S. 41 stopped to help the victim and called 911. Cray drove by the scene moments later before pulling into a nearby Dollar General, approaching a deputy and saying, “We need to talk.”

An autopsy found that Yost died from blunt trauma. His blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.