Driver charged after helicopter tracked vehicle last week
A driver who allegedly stole a car at gunpoint and was chased down by the police helicopter last week was refused bail in court Monday.
Matthew Anthony Whittaker, 23, faces charges of dangerous driving and alleged threats to kill.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats said he refused bail for Whittaker partly because the charges of dangerous driving and driving while disqualified were so serious. He pointed out that the driving, which occurred on the evening of Sept. 17, involved speeds of 70 to 80 miles per hour and occurred over a significant distance – from Crewe Road in George Town to Midland Acres in Bodden Town.
A police summary of the incident alleged that Whittaker was randomly drifting out of his lane and almost hit another car.
The magistrate also considered the fact that Whittaker was on a suspended sentence at the time of the incident.
The defendant is further charged with taking and driving away a vehicle without the owner’s consent and driving without insurance.
Whittaker is scheduled to appear in Summary Court again on Thursday.
Crown prosecutor Nicole Petit referred to the police summary in advising the court of her objections to bail. A news release from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service issued last week indicated that police had received a report of a vehicle stolen at gunpoint. When officers spotted the vehicle, they pursued it until the police critical incident manager decided to halt the pursuit out of concern for public safety.
However, the police helicopter continued to track the vehicle to the Midland Acres area, where it swerved off the main road. The helicopter crew then guided officers on the ground to a nearby yard and bushes, where the driver ran after leaving the vehicle.
Ms Petit said Whittaker was apprehended at the scene, where he allegedly threatened to kill the officers.
Ms Petit and defense attorney John Furniss said the incident began when Whittaker was in the car with other people and there was a disagreement about who would be dropped off first. The driver decided to drop off another person first and Whittaker objected.
The allegation is that he pulled out a gun and brandished it. Everybody got out of the car; Whittaker continued to brandish the gun and then drove off.
Mr. Furniss said Whittaker did not have a gun and was told to take the car. What Whittaker admitted having was something black that he wrapped around his hand.
Ms Petit confirmed that no gun was found at the scene where Whittaker was arrested.
Mr. Furniss asked for bail, pointing out that the charges arose from a situation that was never planned. “This was not something he set out to get involved in,” the attorney said. At the scene of his arrest, Whittaker was “crying and carrying on” but no weapon was found, Mr. Furniss said.
Since receiving a suspended sentence, Whittaker had obtained a job and was the sole support of his child and the child’s mother, Mr. Furniss reported. He asked that his client be allowed to continue working and return to court when all of the papers in the case had been received and discussed.
The magistrate said he appreciated Whittaker’s concern for his family. He suggested that application for assistance could be made to the Department of Children and Family Services.