February 6, 2017

Man arrested after fleeing from deputies

An Islamorada man is in jail after a chaotic incident during which he barricaded himself in a house refusing to come out; fled from deputies in a vehicle, finally crashing the vehicle; poured gasoline in a house threatening to burn it; fled through a wooded area on foot and was shot with a  Taser after saying he had a gun.

The incident started at 8 a.m. Saturday when deputies responded to a report of a domestic incident. A woman called and said she’d had an argument with her husband at their house at the 74.4 mile marker of the highway at about 3 a.m. She said she had to leave the house because she feared for her own safety. She said her husband, 37 year old James Ellis, was out of control. She wanted deputies to check on him because she was worried about his state of mind.

When deputies arrived at the house, Islamorada Fire/Rescue was on the scene putting out an illegal burn in the yard of the residence. Ellis was on scene and was yelling not to put out the fire. There was a pile of belongings on fire in the yard; it appeared Ellis had thrown clothing, electronic equipment and other items into the yard and lit them on fire. A neighbor told deputies Ellis had been in the yard earlier using a machete to cut up items in the pile.

When deputies attempted to make direct contact with Ellis, he locked himself in the house and refused to come out. He said he had gasoline inside and would burn the house if anyone tried to get inside. After a number of attempts by deputies and by his wife to talk him out of the house, everyone left the scene with the intention of following up at a later time when things had calmed down.

Deputies responded back to the house at 11:20 a.m. when a neighbor called to say Ellis had broken the windows of the house and was throwing more belongings out of the windows.  The caller said Ellis had just left northbound driving a grey Kia Soul.

Deputy Nelson Sanchez spotted the vehicle northbound at the 77 mile marker and tried to stop it. At that point, deputies knew about the earlier incident and also knew Ellis had an outstanding warrant for failure to comply with court requirements in a Broward County robbery case.  Ellis also has a suspended driver’s license.

Ellis momentarily stopped his vehicle at Indian Key Fill, but took off from that location as Deputy Sanchez attempted to make contact with him, speeding back southbound. Deputy Sanchez followed, but decided to call off his pursuit of the suspect due to the dangerous way Ellis was driving, speeding and passing cars dangerously. Minutes after calling off the pursuit, the Kia Soul was involved in a crash near the 75 mile marker.

From the crash scene, Ellis ran to his nearby home with Deputy Sanchez behind him. Deputy Sanchez was ordering him to stop, but Ellis continued to run, up the stairs of the house, jumping through the broken front window. As Deputy Sanchez chased him, he saw Ellis in the house pouring gasoline around. At that point, Deputy Sanchez backed off and began to get bystanders in the area to a safe distance.

Ellis jumped out a back window of the house and fled running into a wooded area. As Deputy Sanchez chased him, he heard Ellis say “I have a gun” and Ellis began to reach toward his back. Deputy Sanchez deployed his Taser and he and Deputy Rosary Ponce were able to take Ellis into custody.


Ellis was charged with fleeing and eluding law enforcement, reckless driving, driving with his license suspended and with the outstanding warrant from Broward County. He was booked into jail.

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