MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — UPDATE (June 13, 2022): Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse will attend traffic school by Aug. 18 in exchange for the dropping of a citation for careless driving. A separate investigation by the State Attorney's Office was still underway, as of Monday.
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Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse is being investigated after crashing into a tree on April 20 in a subdivision near his home.
He was not arrested at the time nor has be been charged since. But, in the days following the crash, deputies began looking further into the situation as a suspected DUI case. And on Thursday, they made body camera video public.
Kruse, 46, and his wife can be seen on body camera video sitting in the back of an SUV and talking to a deputy questioning them about what happened. Kruse told the deputy he crashed his Ford F-150 into a tree around 7:30 p.m.
Kruse was slurring his words while responding to the questions being thrown at him, according to investigators. An incident report described the county commissioner as confused and having "glassy eyes, slurred speech, clammy wet skin, and droopy eyelids."
"He’s drunk,” the responding deputy is heard saying in the video. “I just can’t do a DUI because no one can put him behind the wheel. When I got here, he was in his wife’s car.”
The incident reports state two different reasons were given for the crash. Kruse originally told law enforcement he was trying to avoid a crash with another driver, but authorities say Kruse told his insurance company he swerved to avoid an animal.
“Review of this traffic crash revealed additional evidence that was not available on the evening of April 20th.” Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells told the Bradenton Herald, which has been covering the crash. “It was important for us to examine this additional evidence and determine who was in physical control of the vehicle when the crash occurred, and to what extent the driver was impaired.”
One of those pieces of evidence was a 911 call. Two days after the crash, investigators say they learned the original recorded call had "significant information" because Kruse's collision alert system automatically dialed 911 at the time of the crash and began rolling on his conversations in the moments after he hit the tree.
The incident report says law enforcement reviewed the call and determined Kruse sounded intoxicated.
"He was slurring his words and not responding at times," the report said.
Authorities at the scene did not mince words.
"You understand your husband could go to jail for intoxicated driving?" a deputy can be heard on video asking Kruse's wife. "He's obviously impaired, it's obvious. This kind of crush depth for this kind of crash, he was not doing the speed limit this road requires."
Kruse hasn't been arrested in connection with the crash. But, the sheriff's office has sent its recommendation to the state attorney's office that Kruse be charged with DUI.
“[The case is] being passed to Ed Brodsky at the State Attorney's Office…, [they’re] going to do their job, I’m not going to interfere with their investigation and whatever their outcome is is what well deal with at that point in time but I’m not going to opine on or speak to a legal investigation at this stage," Kruse told reporters.
"It's just not in my best interest and honestly it's not in their best interest so I want them to be able to do their diligence and their investigation without all the distractions," Kruse added.