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"We're just sick and tired of those guys," he says. "They're getting bold. They come by and slap the backs of patrol cars as they pass between us in traffic." The epidemic peaked on the turnpike last Labor Day, when Torres and his officers on the road were taunted all weekend by a dude whizzing through tollbooths at 130 mph. It took three days and a final, 40-minute, coordinated air-ground chase, but the biker was followed and nabbed.
"A lot of troopers came up and thanked me and said, 'I'm glad you got this guy, because we just couldn't catch him,'" Torres recalls.
Because the motorcycle had been used during the commission of a felony -- fleeing and eluding police -- the cops confiscated it and began forfeiture proceedings. Torres and his men had finally stopped one of these guys. "And then," he recalls, "I heard about Mr. David Carpenter."
Carpenter is not easy to catch. Slippery. In fact, when finally reached at a phone number he provided to police last year, the man who answered wouldn't even admit it was him. "I don't like the media. You people blow things out of proportion," he said before hanging up.
Regardless, it's clear Carpenter likes to drive over the speed limit. Traffic-court records from three counties outline the 24-year-old's enjoyment of fast cars and faster bikes. In 1998, while living in Boynton Beach, he was ticketed for failing to observe a stop sign and a year later was charged with speeding. In 2000, he was cited twice for driving in the HOV lane, and in April of 2001, he was convicted of racing on a public trafficway. In 2002, Davie police ticketed him in his Camaro for going faster than 75 mph in a 55 zone. The following March, he crashed his 2002 red-and-black Honda sports bike on Pines Boulevard and was written up for having no motorcycle endorsement -- meaning Carpenter wasn't even properly certified to operate the vehicle. (In Florida, cyclists need to take classes to earn their official "motorcycle endorsement," which is a license requirement.) In 2003, he was written up for careless driving in Miami. In 2004, he was nabbed again for speeding and having no muffler on his bike and again for failing to obey a traffic signal. Finally, in early 2005, he received tickets for operating a motorcycle between lanes and again for not having the proper license.
Torres first heard of Carpenter early this year. From the air, he was just a black-and-silver blur with a helmet and backpack. For months, troopers on the road had seen Carpenter's 2004 Honda CBR 1000 blaze past them at outrageous speeds. And he was predictable -- he'd make either a 6:40 a.m. or 8:15 a.m. appearance. He'd enter the turnpike from Kendall Dr., hit the gas, and lose the cops somewhere in Broward County after the Miramar toll.
"Miami-Dade police were fed up," Torres relates. "He was blowing by their units, leaving 'em on the side of the road. They'd send their helicopter up and follow him, but this guy was going faster than their helicopter." Since Miami-Dade's chopper can fly up to 125 mph, they knew the biker had to be cooking. "There's no way you can stop one of these guys," they told Torres, who offered to help Miami-Dade police with both the speed problem and jurisdiction issues. By April, the unknown velocity boy had led authorities on two chases.
On Wednesday, April 20, Torres and his troops had tired of being taunted. After assembling an eight-man squad and setting up positions up and down the 'pike, they went hungry for two days. Then on Friday at 6:40 a.m. Torres, up in a Florida Highway Patrol Cessna, spotted the bike. Troopers on motorcycles tried nabbing him near the Miramar toll, but, losing the cyclist in a pack of other civilian riders, Torres called off the chase.
"He'd go through the SunPass lane at 140 mph," Torres says. "We were all amazed at what this guy was doing." At one point, he blazed past an officer on the side of the road at more than 100, less than a foot away. To add perspective, the pilot explains that while tracking a moving target, the airplane basically flies in a large circle as the target runs. "With this guy, I never had to do that. I had him on my left side the whole time. And I was doing 140 mph."
Torres spent the weekend with his family -- but dreamed about nailing the guy.
On Monday morning, he assembled an arrest team. At 8:15, he spotted a silver-and-black flash on Kendall Drive just west of 127th Avenue. "I noticed him because he was doing 100 mph in between cars on Kendall Drive," he notes dryly. He mobilized his troopers, in place at every exit along the turnpike. It was important, he told them, that they get behind the guy and turn on the blue lights, so they'd have a charge of aggravated fleeing and eluding, to make all this trouble worthwhile.
Caught up in traffic, the bike slowed down to pay a toll at NW 41st Street. But as the speedster prepared to exit there, he saw an FHP trooper on a bike at the bottom of the ramp. "So he turns around and goes back up the wrong way, back the way he came," Torres says. More trouble -- he encountered troopers Enrique Gascon and Danny Lloyd, lights flashing, heading straight at him.