Driver of pickup truck dragged a Florida fisherman down road. What to know about case

A Bradenton man who drove his pickup truck into a Cortez fisherman following an argument was convicted on charges related to the hit-and-run crash, the State Attorney announced Friday.

David Lynn Nichols, 60, got into an argument with fisherman Freddy Gilliland on Nov. 18, 2019, near the 4500 block of 101st Street West, down the road from the Cortez fishing village, before plowing into him with his Chevrolet pickup truck, according to a report from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

The State Attorney’s Office said Nichols “intentionally struck the victim” with his truck while Gilliland was walking down the road in the area of 101st Street West and 46th Avenue West following their argument.

Nearby residents said they heard “tires squealing and the sound of an impact” as Nichols drove his Chevrolet pickup truck into Gilliland, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

One witness told deputies she tried to defuse the situation between the two men. According to an arrest report, she told investigators that Nichols watched Gilliland walk down the road for about two minutes before accelerating his truck down the street and crashing into Gilliland.

Gilliland was stuck beneath Nichols’ truck and dragged nearly 300 feet down the road, according to the release. After running into him, Nichols left Gilliland lying on the road and fled the scene without reporting the crash, investigators said.

Crash report details injuries

Deputies found Nichols’ truck nearby at the Sunny Shores mobile home park hours later and arrested him at about 3:30 a.m., according to a probable cause affidavit.

The State Attorney’s Office said that Gilliland sustained life-threatening injuries as a result of the attack, losing his right arm, the loss of his spleen, multiple bone fractures and a punctured lung, as well as massive amounts of tissue damage and physical trauma throughout his body.

A trial was held for Nichols at the Manatee County Courthouse from Tuesday to Thursday, where a jury found him guilty of felony battery with a weapon and leaving the scene of a crash with serious bodily injury.

Nichols faces a maximum possible sentence of 30 years, the State Attorney’s Office said. A sentencing hearing has been set for Friday, Oct. 13.

“We are pleased with the jury’s verdict in this case and we hope this brings some sense of justice and closure to Mr. Gilliland, whose life has been forever changed by the injuries inflicted on him that night by the defendant. We thank the men and women of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office for their hard work on the case,” the prosecutors in the case, Assistant State Attorneys Arthur Brown and Garrett Franzen, said in a written statement Friday.

‘Pure Cortez’

Gilliland, 64, is well-known in the Cortez fishing village community and is described as a jokester and a kind soul, the Bradenton Herald previously reported.

Bob Slicker, former longtime general manager of the Swordfish Grill and Tiki Bar and owner of Slicker’s Eatery, previously told the Bradenton Herald that Gilliland is all about fishing and community, two of the pillars of the local fishing village culture.

“He’s just pure Cortez,” Slicker said.

Shortly after the incident, residents raised more than $6,000 to support Gilliland’s medical bills in a GoFundMe fundraiser. Donors described Gilliland as a “wonderful friend” with the “gift to make people laugh.”