Troop E of the Florida Highway Patrol, which takes in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, has 42 troopers, 11 corporals, seven sergeants and two sub-district lieutenants.
For 2015, Keys Trooper Christine Gracey was deemed the best of them all, having been named this week the troop's trooper of the year for her role in a shootout in Key Largo back in January. It's the second time this year she's been honored. In May, she was awarded the FHP's Medal of Valor, the agency's highest honor.
In her nomination for that medal, Keys Lt. Kathleen McKinney wrote, "Trooper Gracey's main concern was preventing harm to others and the apprehension of a dangerous criminal. These actions by Trooper Gracey go above and beyond the normal duties of a trooper."
McKinney was referring to Robert Schminky, 58, of Key Largo. He led Gracey and Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies on a chase on Jan. 21 up and down State Road 905 in North Key Largo. It ended in a shootout at the Circle K convenience store at mile marker 106; Schminky was arrested a short time later at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church around half a mile south of there.
Schminky is charged with three counts of attempted murder and five other felonies. He's set for trial in January before Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia at the Plantation Key Courthouse and is in jail with no bond allowed.
The events of Jan. 21 unfolded when deputies were called to Schminky's Buttonwood Drive house near mile marker 100.6. He's accused of beating his wife, Honour, with the butt of a shotgun. She suffered head wounds, a collapsed lung, six cracked ribs and a broken elbow and wrist.
When deputies arrived at the house, police say, Schminky fired two shots into the ground before fleeing in his SUV.
During the chase onto northbound County Road 905 at mile marker 106.5, he made a U-turn and headed back toward the U.S. 1 intersection. He reportedly shot at Sheriff's Office Sgt. Sydney Whitehouse's car as the vehicles passed.
At the Circle K, Schminky drove into Gracey's FHP car and the two autos locked together for a time. He allegedly shot at her through her windshield and she fired back.
As other police pursued Schminky to the church, Gracey stayed behind to tend to Whitehouse, who had been grazed by a bullet fired by Schminky.
As Troop E's trooper of the year, Gracey was eligible to be chosen as trooper of the year for Florida. Wednesday, that honor went to a Land 'O Lakes trooper.