On Tuesday, December 19, 2023, Tampa Police arrested 56-year-old Christopher Prater in connection with the fatal hit & run crash that left a USPS mail carrier dead on Monday afternoon.
“I hope this swift arrest will provide a small sense of closure for the Falica family, as well as the extended family from the US Postal Service, as they all continue to navigate this tragedy,” said Chief Lee Bercaw. “The combination of outstanding police work, diligent forensics investigation, and a tip from a concerned community member that led to this arrest is another demonstration that in Tampa we are safer, together.”
Just before 3 p.m. on Monday, December 18th, 2023, Tampa Police Department responded to the report of a traffic crash at the intersection of River Cove St and Mulberry St. Officers arrived to find an overturned USPS mail delivery truck. The USPS driver, 69-year-old Paul Falica, was pronounced dead on scene due to injuries sustained in the crash.
Evidence indicated that the USPS truck was traveling east on River Cove St. when it was struck by a southbound vehicle. Witnesses reported seeing a Mercedes sedan flee the scene after hitting the USPS truck. Evidence collected at the scene was part of a bumper insert commonly used in some 1998-2003 Mercedes Benz sedan models.
An anonymous tip submitted through TIP411 suggested Christopher Prater was involved in the hit & run crash. Following up on this tip and additional leads, detectives located the suspect vehicle parked in the driveway of 8412 N. 16th St. Detectives contacted Christopher Prater, residing at this residence, where he reported that his roommate had been driving the vehicle but was no longer in the area.
The owner of the vehicle informed investigators that he parked the vehicle at this location a few days prior. The owner did not authorize anyone to drive his vehicle and provided keys to Prater to keep at the residence in case the car needed to be moved.
A search warrant was obtained for the vehicle, which was towed to Tampa Police Department’s Impound Lot. Fingerprints recovered from inside matched those of Christopher Prater and a debit card with his name was found inside. The oil pan cover was missing from underneath and there was visible damage to the front bumper consistent with impact from a crash.
Additional evidence was gathered that contradicted Prater’s statement, including nearby video surveillance showing Prater entering and exiting the vehicle before and after it returned with front end damage consistent with that found at the scene of the crash. Witnesses also identified Prater as being seen wearing clothing matching what he had on in video footage on same day as crash occurred.
Based upon the evidence, Christopher Prater was arrested and charged with Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Death, and Driving While License Canceled, Suspended, Revoked (Death or Serious Bodily Injury). He was transported to Falkenburg Road Jail.