Polk detectives find hit-and-run driver accused of leaving volunteer in critical condition

Polk County

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a man for a hit-and-run that happened earlier this month and injured a 74-year-old man who was cleaning the roadside.

Detectives say Larry Schlosser was volunteering with other members of his community alongside Old Lucerne Park Road in Winter Haven when he was struck on Oct. 6.

On Tuesday, Oct. 16, detectives arrested 28-year-old Ricky Perez of Plant City. Perez is charged with leaving the scene of a crash with serious bodily injury and reckless driving with serious bodily injury. He was taken to the Polk County Jail.

Detectives found the damaged 2018 Chevy Silverado pickup involved in the crash on Santa Rosa Drive in Winter Haven the day after the crash, after getting a tip. 

Detectives then made contact with Perez, the owner of the truck, who was there visiting friends. He denied driving the truck at the time of the crash or knowing how the truck was damaged. A search warrant allowed detectives to seize the truck for forensic processing.

On Oct. 8, detectives got in touch with 31-year-old Emanuel Fernandez and confirmed he was the passenger in the truck at the time of the crash. Fernandez also confirmed that Perez was the driver. 

According to the affidavit, Fernandez said both men had been drinking in the hours prior to the crash, and Perez wanted to visit his mother’s grave in Rolling Hills Cemetery. The cemetery is located next to where Schlosser lives, and where he and four other residents were picking up trash when he was injured.

The witnesses of the hit-and-run said the Chevy Silverado was speeding and weaving. 

Fernandez said Schlosser was wearing a traffic vest when he was hit and when he told Perez that he hit a man and he needed to go back, Perez refused. 

Detectives got access to Fernandez’ cellphone and found text messages between himself and Perez from Oct. 7.

“Credit goes to the eye-witnesses who were able to give great descriptions of the truck and driver, and to those who provided us tips and valuable information, because the driver clearly wasn’t doing what was right,” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. “People saw something and said something. Now we can only hope and pray that Mr. Schlosser can make a full recovery.”

Schlosser remains hospitalized in critical condition. 

Perez has a prior criminal history of four misdemeanor charges.

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