Sheriff: Woman injured in I-4 biker shootout dies; man charged with murder

A woman who was shot during a shootout between two motorcycle gangs on I-4 has died, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said Saturday. 

Her boyfriend is now being charged with 2nd degree murder and additional charges, the sheriff's office said.

After midnight on Friday, the sheriff's office says a shooting broke out between two motorcycle gangs along a stretch of I-4 in Polk County. 

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"I want to take you back to the 1880s. Do you remember watching the old westerns where the outlaws were chasing each other through the countryside, shooting each other?" asked the sheriff. "The same thing happened last night, except the outlaws…were on motorcycles."

Around 12:15 a.m., deputies said they responded to the eastbound lanes of Interstate 4, near the U.S. Highway 27 overpass for a reported single-vehicle motorcycle crash.  They said a 33-year-old woman from Brevard County, the passenger on the motorcycle, fell off and had a gunshot wound. 

"The Thug Riders decided they would pass the Sin City Riders and that didn’t work so well. They had a rush of testosterone and a rush of idiocy," the sheriff said.

The woman was taken to a hospital.

"She is going to die," the sheriff explained late Friday morning. "She is mortally wounded."

On Saturday, Sheriff Judd announced that the woman had passed away.

The driver, 38-year-old Ronald Donovan who is also from Brevard County, refused to cooperate with the investigation, but preliminary evidence shows he fired the first shot, Judd said.

Donovan is a member of the Sin City Deciples gang, the sheriff explained. He was heading east with his girlfriend, along with at least two other motorcyclists. 

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"When along came two Thug Riders, a different gang, and passed them," Judd said, emphasizing the investigation is still in the early stages. "Well, apparently that didn’t work so well, there was some skirmishing and driving at about 100 mph."

That's when Donovan fired his gun from his motorcycle, shooting one of the Thug Riders. During the investigation, the victim said he felt a "sharp pain in the back as I was shot. I immediately returned fire."

A bullet struck Donovan's female passenger in the head, and she fell off the motorcycle. 


Booking image for Ronald Donovan

The male shooting victim, who is from Osceola County, drove to the Champions Gate exit, stopped at a Papa John's near the intersection of Lake Wilson Road and Osceola Polk Line Road, and dialed 911. The sheriff's office also received other 911 calls about the shooting on the highway.

Deputies were sent to both locations and determined a crash did not occur. 

"We find out that there is a really a driving, riding, gun battle down Interstate 4 just after midnight," Sheriff Judd said. "We have witnesses that said they were wearing gang colors but by the time we arrived they were  not only not wearing gang colors, but their gang colors also were not there."

Deputies noticed a motorcycle leaving the scene, and suspect that the individual had the firearms and was carrying the materials showing the gang colors. When they arrived, Donovan had two empty gun canisters. Deputies said when they tried to interview him, he said, "I know my rights. I don't have to talk to you."

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"Dude, your girlfriend is just shot off the back of your motorcycle…and you won’t cooperate to tell us what happened?" Sheriff Judd said during a press conference. "OK, we'll see how that works for you."

The eastbound lanes of I-4 were shut down during the investigation for about three hours and didn’t fully reopen until 9:30 a.m.

"At this moment in time, and I’m cautious, it appears to me that victim 1, who was shot in the back, was acting in self-defense when he returned fire…striking victim 2," Grady said. 

As of now, it appears this was not a retaliation act. Detectives said both groups were leaving Tampa but were not at the same place.

"They did not have a rivalry going on," the sheriff explained. "It just happened that the Thug Riders passed the Sin City Riders and that didn’t work so well. You had a rush of testosterone and a rush of ideocracy."

Donovan faces several charges, including battery on law enforcement and resisting arrest. 

"It’s just craziness," Sheriff Grady said. "Fortunately, because it was midnight and the interstate was not packed, so there was room for bullets between cars. Had it been right now, it would’ve been a whole different story."

Local motorcyclists said they are concerned about their own safety and realize that deputies may be watching their actions as well after this shooting.

"It makes me feel targeted from both sides – the law side and the motorcycle gang side – and we’re just innocent," said Daniel DeCosta. "We just want to ride and have fun."

Jay Wild of I-4 Riders of Central Florida said he’s also worried about other motorcycle clubs like his who aren’t looking for any trouble and promote family values.

"Will make me look at the safety of my riders a little differently in making sure they ride together a little longer and stay together in groups."

He wishes everyone would just get along. 

"Figure out a way that they can co-exist. Whether they like each other or not, to have that respect for one another and the fellow riders around them, to keep it out of the public streets."

FOX 13 contributed to this report.