The 22-year-old St. Petersburg man who collided with a PSTA bus in July while fleeing from police in a stolen SUV was sentenced to nine years in prison today.
Derrick Mims pleaded guilty to five felonies stemming from the wreck, which injured several people, including his 2-year-old son, who was riding with him.
Mims was charged with fleeing and eluding, child abuse, driving while his license was suspended or revoked, grand theft of a motor vehicle and driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or a controlled substance, according to court records. Mims had marijuana in his system at the time of the wreck, according to a prosecutor.
By statute, Mims could have been sentenced to 30 years in prison for just one of the five charges he faced, said Pinellas Circuit Judge Keith Meyer, who also revoked Mimsí driverís license for life.
The chase started when a Gulfport police officer tried to stop the stolen 2012 Toyota Venza Mims was driving. Mims bolted, leading police on a chase that spilled onto Interstate 275. Eventually, Mims ran a stop sign at 11th Avenue South and 25th Street in St. Petersburg, driving into the path of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus.
The collision sent the bus careening into the front of a house at 1114 25th St. S., causing an estimated $30,000 in damage.
Mimsí 2-year-old son was in the back seat of the Venza during the pursuit, according to police. He was not wearing a seat belt and was not in a child restraint seat.
Two other passengers were in the Venza, and one of them bailed following the wreck. The other passenger was more seriously injured than anyone else, but he survived.
Six people on the PSTA bus, including the driver, were also injured and taken to area hospitals to be checked out.
No one suffered life-threatening injuries, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.
Less than a month before the wreck, Mims was released from the Pinellas County Jail, where he was being held on another fleeing and eluding charge.
The chase became somewhat controversial because of conflicting police chase policies. While Gulfport police are allowed to chase stolen cars, St. Petersburg police are not. Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent tweaked his policy as a result of what happened.
Now, Gulfport officers have to be familiar with an area before they continue pursuing a suspect into that area, Vincent said today. The Gulfport officer who led the pursuit of Mims into St. Petersburg was not familiar with the neighborhood where Mims crashed, Vincent said.