Troubled history of hit-and-run driver who killed Clearwater family leaves friends searching for answers

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It started with a violent crash that left a family of three dead on US-19, struck and killed by a hit & run driver. Now the accused hit and run driver is behind bars and we’re hearing from a man who knows the suspect and thought all along he might be the one responsible.

Veteran Bruce Johnson, his wife Lisa Johnson and their 18-year-old son Glenworth will be laid to rest Thursday at Bay Pines National Cemetary in Pinellas County. We’re learning more about the suspect, Tanner Hackman, 22, and his troubled past.

“Tanner has a good heart,” said Douglas Wilson. “He was helpful. If you needed a ride he would give it to you.”

Wilson worked with 22-year-old Hackman in landscaping and thought of him as a son…though Hackman had a troubled past: 12 run-ins with the law in 6 years. Wilson says the young man was turning his life around, going to school after struggling with addiction.

“I’ve been in recovery for 3 years now,” said Wilson. “I haven’t had a drink or drug. I was able to share my life with Tanner so he didn’t make the mistakes I did.” Hackman may not have understood that message.

Florida Highway Patrol Troopers arrested Hackman Friday night. They said he was driving drunk and caused a deadly crash on Feb. 1, leaving a Clearwater family of 3 dead. “I just didn’t believe it. And I still don’t believe it. I’m in denial.” said Wilson.

The Johnson family was delivering papers when they died in the crash. Investigators say Hackman and his passenger ran from the scene. Wilson knew shortly after that Hackman was involved when he showed up to work a few days later.

“He didn’t have his car, didn’t have his phone and had scratches on his face. He came back Wednesday as if nothing happened,” said Wilson. “But I knew it was him.”

Troopers are still searching for the passenger. 22-year-old Hackman is in the Pinellas County Jail facing felony charges. “He’s in jail now stuck with his own demons,” said Wilson. “Guilt, remorse, and shame.”

Hackman is due back in court Wednesday.

For previous reports about the crash click here.

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