Palmetto police said they believe the death of a Palmetto High School football player on Thursday was the result of a drug deal gone wrong based on interviews with the suspect.
Kyle O’Halloran, 18, was killed on Christmas Day when he was thrown from the side of a vehicle driven by 20-year-old Roberto Betancourt, according to police.
Betancourt pulled into O’Halloran’s driveway in the 1800 block of 24th Avenue West in a Lincoln Town Car at 4:59 p.m. with two passengers in the car, according to reports.
O’Halloran approached the vehicle and presented a small amount of marijuana to Betancourt and the passengers, who passed it around to smell it, police said. Betancourt then purposely began accelerating out of the driveway without paying for the marijuana.
O’Halloran reached for the rear driver’s side window, hanging on to the vehicle as it began to pull away, according to a report. Police said Betancourt purposely kept accelerating as O’Halloran held onto the vehicle, reaching speeds above the posted speed limit before O’Halloran lost his grip and fell in the 1900 block of 24th Avenue West. Betancourt did not stop the car.
O’Halloran died as a result of head trauma, according to an autopsy performed Friday. Police arrested Betancourt later on Thursday night and charged him with one count of vehicular homicide.
Detective Chad Oyler of the Palmetto Police Department said officials were still waiting to conduct a search warrant on Betancourt’s vehicle, which they have impounded as evidence. Oyler said Betancourt told detectives that O’Halloran had been trying to sell him marijuana.
Palmetto High School officials had a vehicle O’Halloran was riding in searched a few weeks ago when he left and returned to campus during lunch, according to Steve Valley, spokesman for the Manatee County School District.
Valley said searching the vehicles of students who leave during the day and return to campus is policy, but that nothing was found in the vehicle.
Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells said they are not pursuing anything further on an alleged sale of marijuana.
“We have no evidence of prior activity,” Wells said.
On Monday, prosecutors filed a charge of first-degree vehicular homicide against Betancourt. Other charges, including leaving the scene of a crash involving a death, reckless driving and driving without a license, are pending.
Betancourt is being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.
O’Halloran was a senior at Palmetto High School and was a fullback, offensive guard and linebacker for the Tigers’ football team throughout his high school career. He had a 4.0 GPA, according to football Coach Dave Marino.
The O’Halloran family did not return a call requesting comment on Monday.