PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Highway Patrol Master Trooper Toni Schuck was named the 2023 Trooper of the Year, according to an announcement from the American Association of State Troopers (AAST).
On March 6, 2022, while controlling traffic near Tampa’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge for the annual Skyway 10k race, troopers spotted a BMW sedan speeding down the highway at over 100 mph. Authorities said the driver, 52-year-old Kristen Kay Watts, of Sarasota, had drunkenly maneuvered the speeding sedan through several barriers and traffic cones.
After several failed attempts to stop the sedan, “Trooper Schuck made the courageous decision to place her FHP commercial enforcement vehicle in the direct path of the oncoming vehicle,” AAST said.
“I was the last officer, I knew that, I knew it was me,” Schuck later recalled. “If it wasn’t me to get her to stop, then who? I don’t know.”
“This calculated and heroic decision prevented those participating in the Skyway 10k from the threat of injury or loss of life, while instead risking her own.”
Schuck suffered serious injuries in the crash but has since fully recovered and is back at work.
Watts was charged with DUI serious injury, two counts of reckless drive damage person or property, and two counts of DUI damage to property or person of another.
“I am incredibly proud of Trooper Schuck and her tremendous bravery,” said Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Dave Kerner. “When a Trooper first takes their oath, they swear to perform their duties fearlessly; not many will face a decision that requires that action. Trooper Schuck fulfilled her oath the day of the race and is a true example of Florida’s Finest.”
Trooper Schuck, who was awarded FHP’s 2022 Trooper of the Year in February, was among 24 individuals from across the nation nominated for the prestigious AAST 2023 Trooper of the Year Award. She will be recognized in person later this year.