SEBRING — A former Sebring police officer who resigned after failing to stop his ATV when pulled over by other officers has been found guilty in court.
Ezell Gammage Jr., who had just ended a year with Sebring Police Department at the time of the incident, took a plea Wednesday to resisting without violence. Circuit Court Judge Peter Estrada withheld adjudication.
He will receive a year of probation and must serve 25 hours of community service, at least 10 hours a month.
In addition he must also submit to warrant-less searches and seizures while on probation and pay fines and costs.
Arrest reports from the April 7 incident stated that Gammage, 24, and an associate, 47-year-old Sammie Jamison, were arrested shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday, April 7.
Two hours before then, at 5 p.m., a Highlands County sheriff’s deputy patrolling the area of North Lake Avenue and Jackson Street in Avon Park had tried to conduct a traffic stop on several four-wheel ATVs.
Reports said the deputy saw several ATVs headed west on Lake Isis Drive, toward U.S. 27, and turned on the lights and sirens on his fully-marked patrol unit.
Instead of stopping, the group of riders fled through a motel parking lot and headed north on U.S. 27, reports state.
Shortly after that, another deputy went to the 2600 block of West Wellston Road, on reports of ATVs almost hitting a woman as she drove down the road in her van.
The deputy saw several trucks with trailers at 2558 W. Wellston Road, reports state.
Not long after that, a deputy saw two ATVs arrive at that address, and identified Gammage as the one on a blue ATV that pulled into the front yard, and later identified him as one of the ones who fled the traffic stop.
Wednesday, in circuit court, attorney Peter Brewer said that, contrary to arrest reports and news reports based on them, there was no “high speed chase” through Avon Park.
Brewer said the lights and sirens in that incident were not activated on the patrol car, except to go through intersections.
He acknowledged Gammage was behaving recklessly and should have stopped, which was the reason for the plea agreement.
Estrada took it a step further and scolded Gammage.
“You were a police officer,” Estrada said. “You (knew you) were supposed to stop.”
Gammage was hired by Sebring Police Department in March 2018 while attending the South Florida State College Law Enforcement Academy.
His employment probationary period was extended to include his time at the academy, which was why it ended in April 2019.
According to Sebring Police Cmdr. Curtis Hart, Gammage "was terminated (from the police department) for unsuccessful completion of his probationary period."
Editor's note: The headline on this story has been updated to indicate the original charge the defendant was taking the plea deal for. The story also clarifies the plea and its conditions.