Man driving stolen construction machinery in Keys tells deputies, ‘I like it’

Monroe County Sheriff's Office arrested Christopher Hawkins for driving stolen construction machinery similar to the one by Leeboy pictured here. Note: Pictured is a new model. (Grader photo/LeeBoy) (WPLG)

BIG PINE KEY, Fla. – A man stopped by sheriff’s deputies in the Florida Keys for driving a stolen construction vehicle on U.S. 1 told them that he was operating the machinery because, “I like it.”

Christopher Paul Hawkins, 35, was driving heavy machinery with no lights on when a Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy pulled him over at 1:35 a.m. Wednesday southbound on U.S. 1. near Mile Marker 30. When the deputy approached the driver inside the construction vehicle, he recognized Hawkins as someone he had seen walking just moments before along the same road.

The deputy also thought the construction equipment looked familiar, too. He was right. Police identified the machinery as a “Leeboy 685B grader,” which was part of a road construction project underway just a few hundred feet from where Hawkins was stopped.

According to the deputy, Hawkins had trouble standing and appeared to be intoxicated.

He stated he didn’t remember how much he had to drink, but that his pickup truck was parked at a bar on Little Torch Key.

Hawkins also denied driving the machinery.

The deputy walked to the construction site where he saw a path left by the vehicle and noted that when Hawkins took the grader, he damaged the sidewalk and the roadway.

Hawkins was charged with driving while under the influence, driving while under the influence with property damage, driving with a suspended license and criminal mischief.

The company that owns the vehicle was called and they stated the grader was valued at $120,000, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s.

Hawkins was taken to jail.

About the Author:

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local