A deputy used his stun gun to take down an Islamorada man running through the woods Saturday afternoon. Moments earlier, the man poured gasoline throughout his house while barricaded inside.
James Ellis, 37, also led police on a high-speed car chase before crashing his vehicle and and running away, according to a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office press release. Deputies arrested him on charges of fleeing and eluding law enforcement, reckless driving and driving with his license suspended. Ellis also has an outstanding warrant from Broward County on a robbery charge, said Deputy Becky Herrin, media relations officer for the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies were called to Ellis’ house at mile marker 74 earlier in the day, around 8 a.m., and found him burning items, such as clothing and electronics, in a pile on the front yard. Islamorada Fire-Rescue firefighters were putting out the fire when police arrived. Neighbors said Ellis used a machete to chop up the burning possessions, Herrin said.
Ellis’ wife left the house at 3 a.m., fearing for her safety. She called deputies to check on Ellis, who she told deputies “was out of control,” Herrin said. Ellis locked himself inside the house as soon as deputies arrived and refused to come out. He told deputies that he had gasoline with him and threatened to burn the house down if they tried to get inside. Deputies and his wife tried to convince him to come outside, but he refused. Herrin said the deputies decided to leave with the intention of returning in a few hours, giving Ellis time to calm down.
But time didn’t turn out to be the elixir for which deputies hoped. A neighbor called 911 at 11:20 a.m. to report Ellis was breaking the windows of the house and throwing more things out of the house. The caller added that Ellis had just driven off in gray Kia Soul.
Deputy Nelson Sanchez spotted Ellis’ car heading north on U.S. 1 at mile marker 77 and turned on his emergency lights, but Ellis didn’t stop. A check of Ellis’ plates revealed the outstanding Broward County warrant and a suspended driver’s license.
He briefly stopped his car at Indian Key Fill, but sped off southbound when he noticed Sanchez’s cruiser coming toward him, Herrin said. Ellis was driving aggressively — speeding and passing other vehicles — so Sanchez stopped his pursuit. Minutes later, Ellis crashed his car near mile marker 75, close to his house, Herrin said. He ran home, with Sanchez chasing him on foot. He got back into his house through a broken window. Sanchez saw him pouring gasoline on the floor inside the house. The deputy backed off and moved bystanders away.
Ellis then jumped out of the back window and ran into the woods, Herrin said. Sanchez chased him and heard Ellis say he had a gun as he reached toward his back, according to Herrin. Sanchez shot him with his Taser stun gun, and he and Deputy Rosary Ponce were able to cuff him.
Ellis is in county jail in Key West on $150,000 bond and a hold for Broward County.