Well-known Cortez fisherman hit, dragged by pickup truck driver: deputies

Freddy Gilliland is a name just about everyone knows in the Manatee County fishing village of Cortez. Deputies say he's now fighting for his life after a man hit him with a truck and dragged him down the street.

Investigators say Gilliland was walking away from an argument with the man when he was attacked. His attacker, David Nichols now sits in jail on an attempted murder charge.

Meanwhile, Gilliland's reputation for spreading kindness has the entire community hurting.

"He's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet in your life and fun," said friend Nicole Demos. "He'll give you the shirt off his back and is the most genuine person."

"Always willing to give a hand and funny and caring and took care of everybody," said friend John Banyas.

"Hearts are broken in the community and they will be for a long time," said friend Sandy Yates.

Monday night around 8 p.m., the Manatee Sheriff's Office says Glliland was picking up furniture from a friend on 101st Street West when he got into an argument with Nichols, who also happened to be there.

Gilliland walked away but deputies say Nichols got into his truck, hit Gilliland, and dragged him about a block onto 46th Avenue West.

"It was terrible," said friend and witness Greg Stewart. "He tried to walk away and still, bad things happened to him."

Neighbors came out when they heard screams.

Pamela Rees said she heard Freddy yell her nickname, Sis.

"I said, 'Is that Freddy?' He said, 'Sis, call 911! call 911!' When I looked and saw it was Freddy, I just lost it," she recalls.

Freddy was rushed to the hospital. Deputies found Nichols and his truck at a nearby mobile home park.

"There was no sense for him to be done this way. There's just no reason for it," Rees said.

"I know he's in a real touch-and-go situation right now," Yates said. "They took his spleen, he lost an ear, he lost an arm."

As they wait for updates, those who love Freddy are sharing precious memories.

"The kids did lemonade stands and he would be right there with $20 and a $2 lemonade and he would give them the $20 and say, 'Go buy some ice cream,'" Banyas said.

"He would go broke to help other people out, so I'm hoping that comes back to him. I hope this karma comes back and helps him out," Yates said.