TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The parents of a Florida man accused of intentionally running over and killing a cyclist out for a family bike ride said Monday that their son has struggled for years with profound mental illness.
Tampa Police said Mikese Morse, a 30-year-old former Olympic track and field hopeful, “purposely drove off the road” Sunday afternoon, cutting across traffic and over a grass easement, killing 42-year-old Pedro Aguerreberry. One of two sons out for the ride with their father was seriously injured.
Michael and Khadeeja Morse told The Associated Press that their son was in the throes of a psychotic break. They also said they are devastated after trying to help him over the years.
“The system failed us, they failed our child, they failed this family. We’ve tried everything, this should have never happened, and now our child is also affected and he’s hurt someone else’s family,” said Khadeeja Morse, crying. “He was a good child with a mental health issue that we tried to get addressed.”
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Mikese Morse appeared visibly angry and increasingly incoherent in videos posted Sunday morning on Instagram. They show him talking about acting in the name of the Lord while walking around a Wal-Mart store. One video ends, “I’m going to kill somebody tonight right now.”
In another video posted later Sunday, Morse speaks to the camera and says, “Yeah, devil, this is all your fault. Yeah, devil, this is all your fault, all your fault because you descended to earth. You had a choice and you knew exactly what to do. You said you don’t care about anybody down here.”
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told reporters a witness described the driver of a Dodge Avenger pulling a U-turn Sunday, cutting across traffic and driving over a grass easement before hitting the family and speeding away.
The father was pulling one child in a trailer while his older son followed behind on an off-road bike path. All were wearing helmets. Aguerreberry was killed and his 3-year-old, Bennett, was seriously injured. His 8-year-old, Lucas, wasn’t seriously hurt.
After his arrest Sunday night, Morse was jailed and charged with premeditated first-degree murder and leaving the scene of a crash with a death and injuries. Jail records don’t list a defense lawyer for him.
The Morses said their son has struggled mentally since his early twenties, all while trying to pursue a track career.
As an athlete, Morse specialized in the long jump. He attended University of South Florida in Tampa, where he won the Big East Championship for leaping 25 feet, seven-and-a-half inches (7.81 meters). He also attended the University of Miami. He qualified for the United States Olympic Trials three times and was a finalist in 2008 and 2016, but never made the team.
The parents said they had spoken with police and therapists after Morse began taking to social media and making sometimes incomprehensible and troubling videos.
“We’ve pointed them to his social media. We stopped following it because it was so disturbing,” said Khadeeja Morse.
But she added that she and her husband were limited in what they could do because their son is an adult.
Two weeks ago, they said, their son walked into a Tampa Police station and told them he wasn’t doing well and asked to be involuntarily committed. An officer brought him to a mental health facility, where he had been seen before.
His parents said that while in the facility, he had an altercation with another person and the facility subsequently released him June 19. He then refused to take his medicine and there was little his parents could do, they said, because he didn’t live with them.
“He’s high-functioning right now,” said his mother, who said she gave some advice to the doctors at the facility. “He’s very smart, he’ll be able to talk his way out. Don’t listen to just what he’s saying. Monitor his behavior.”
On Sunday, Khadeeja Morse was planning on dinner for the family. But instead, police knocked on the door of their pale yellow house in an upscale suburban neighborhood. That night authorities took their son into custody. Authorities said someone had spotted the vehicle north of downtown Tampa and called 911.
Court records show Morse was previously cited for a handful of traffic citations, including driving with a suspended license and driving a vehicle in an unsafe condition. He was cited last year for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, a civil infraction in the city of Tampa.
Jennifer Kay contributed to this report from Miami.