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'Toni Schuck Day': Manatee County honors trooper who stopped accused drunk driver at Skyway 10K

Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge described her as a hometown hero.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Florida Highway Patrol Master Trooper Toni Schuck has been regarded as a hero ever since she put her cruiser in the path of an accused drunk driver heading toward runners at the Skyway 10K.

On Tuesday, Manatee County decided to show its appreciation in a more official way — by declaring March 22, 2022, "Trooper Toni Schuck Day."

"Trooper Schuck acted incredibly bravely, incredibly selflessly. She literally put her life at risk to save hundreds or thousands of people that were in danger…many of those people Manatee County residents," Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said during the meeting.

"I thought that it was incredibly important that we recognize her as the hometown hero that she is."

Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown joined the meeting to honor Schuck by presenting her with the key to the city as a "small token" of her incredible bravery.

"She did this because she loves what she does and what she does for us," Brown said.

Trooper Schuck said a few words to express her gratitude for the recognition.

“Thank you for recognizing what I did that morning," she said. "I’m glad that it was me and nobody else got hurt."

At around 8:45 a.m. on March 6, Kristen Watts, a 52-year-old from Sarasota, drove through the closed toll plaza on the Manatee County side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.  

Seeing the approaching car, FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins radioed two troopers and others to have them intercept the driver and protect thousands of runners participating in the Skyway 10K on the bridge. 

In the dashcam video, you see Schuck's patrol car drive in the middle of two lanes just before Watts' car smashes into the trooper, almost head-on. The sound of sirens and rustling debris can be heard shortly after.

Watts is charged with two counts of DUI with damage to property or person, two counts of reckless driving with damage to property or a person and DUI causing serious bodily injury. FHP reports later revealed that she had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal drinking limit.

Schuck, 47, is a mother of two and a 26-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol. She said she plans to return to work once she recovers from her injuries.

 

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