32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

Former county administrator ‘shocked’ by probable-cause affidavit in accident

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of October 5, 2023)

Six weeks after a minor traffic accident on Ocean Drive, where his car was in a collision with a bicyclist, former County Administrator Joe Baird was surprised to learn Sunday that the police had presented a state prosecutor with a probable-cause affidavit.

“I’m actually shocked,” Baird said. “I didn’t know anything about it. As far as I knew, the case was closed.”

It was – but not until Assistant State Attorney Gayle Braun denied the Vero Beach Police Department’s request for an arrest warrant charging Baird with one misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage.

That was on Sept. 11.

The accident occurred on Aug. 21, when Baird was driving south on Ocean Drive and began to turn left into the Waldo’s parking lot, where he planned to turn around and go north.

As Baird began his turn, however, his car was struck by 26-year-old Gavin Brugger on his electric bicycle, who was traveling south along the curb in the northbound lane.

“He ran into me,” Baird said.

According to the police report, Brugger said Baird continued into the lot and parked for about 45 seconds before driving out of the lot. The driver, he said, never exited his car.

Brugger alertly remembered the tag number, however, and when police arrived at the scene, he provided a description of both the car and its driver, whom he said was a white male in his 60s with gray hair and partially balding.

Brugger told police he also noticed a “scratch” near the handle of the driver’s side door.

In the report filed by Vero Beach Police Officer Mark Van Dhuynslager, Brugger said he hurt his left leg in the accident, when he fell and the bicycle landed on it, but he refused medical assistance.

The only damage to the bicycle was a loose wire.

Unable to find any surveillance cameras in the area or locate any witnesses to the accident, Van Dhuynslager turned over what was considered a hit-and-run case to the agency’s traffic division, where Officer John Scroggin launched an investigation.

The next day, Scroggin contacted Brugger by phone and asked if he wanted to pursue charges against the driver, but the bicyclist replied, “I don’t want an old man to go to jail.”

During their conversation, the investigative report states, Brugger said his leg was still sore but he hadn’t seen a doctor – something he would do if the pain hadn’t subsided by the end of the day.

Asked why he was riding the wrong way on Ocean Drive, Brugger said he wanted to see the oncoming traffic and was unaware that he was violating the law.

Two days later, Brugger identified Baird in a photo lineup, but only after initially selecting the wrong person.

Later that day, Scroggin went to Baird’s island home, where Baird told him he had gotten out of his car after the collision to help the bicyclist get up, only to have the rider “yell at him in an aggressive manner.”

Baird then told Scroggin the bicyclist began pushing at him, and that’s when he decided to back off and drive into the parking lot, where he checked his car and found no visible damage from the collision.

The report states that as Scroggin examined the car for damage, finding what Baird said was a pre-existing door ding near the handle, Baird told him he had already spoken with an attorney who said he was right to leave the accident site because the bicyclist was being aggressive.

Interviewed by Vero Beach 32963 on Sunday, Baird said he did not tell the officer that his attorney told him he did the right thing.

In fact, the report states that Baird said neither the bicyclist nor the bicycle appeared to be damaged in the accident, and that after leaving the parking lot, he returned to the scene minutes later, only to find the bicyclist and police were gone.

On Sunday, Baird said he went to police headquarters in early September to pick up a copy of the accident report. He said he also called Scroggin and left a voice message that went unreturned.

He assumed the case was closed.

Little did Baird know the Vero police didn’t believe his story about getting out of his car and the bicyclist becoming aggressive – a claim Brugger denied, saying he couldn’t have confronted Baird because Baird never got out of his car.

Instead, police were convinced Baird left the scene as the bicyclist claimed, and they took their case to the State Attorney’s Office.

The determining factor there, however, was not whether Baird left the scene. It was whether the accident resulted in property damage.

In responding to police, Assistant State Attorney Braun wrote that, given the evidence, “there is no way to prove which version of events is true” and that “there was no proof this crash resulted in damage.”

The police then closed the case, but nobody told Baird, who said he would have appreciated a call. He said he also would’ve liked to know that the investigation had concluded with enough evidence to submit its findings to the State Attorney’s Office.

“It would’ve been nice to know,” Baird said.

But not required.

Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey said law enforcement agencies don’t typically tell suspects when probable-cause affidavits are presented to the prosecutors.

As for Baird not being aware that the case had been closed, Currey said, “He could’ve requested a copy of the report, just like anyone else.”