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Pasco commissioners approve $200,000 settlement for Tampa officer killed in motorcycle crash

Tampa police Officer Victor Guerrero headed south on his Harley Davidson on U.S. 41, just north of State Road 52. The former Marine and father of six was on his way to his mother's house for coffee — something they did together nearly every day.

It was just before 1 p.m. on May 1, 2008. A county-owned Ford F-150 driven by county engineering inspector Daniel Whipple made a left turn in front of the motorcycle. Guerrero, who didn't have a helmet on, slammed into the truck and flew. Emergency responders rushed him to St. Joseph's Hospital and pronounced him dead on arrival. Whipple was later cited for making an improper turn.

In 2012, Guerrero's wife Lara sued Pasco County and won. A jury awarded $7 million, which one county official called the biggest award for damages she'd ever seen.

"He was my heart, my best friend. He was my everything," Lara Guerrero said after the trial. "And he was taken away."

The county appealed, asking for either a new trial or a review of the amount, but an appellate court upheld the verdict on Oct. 2.

On Tuesday, county commissioners authorized a payment of $200,000 to Guerrero's estate. Under Florida law, any amount above that would have to come from a claims bill approved by the Florida Legislature.

Guerrero's attorney Scott Lazar said he was waiting for the county's final decision before moving toward seeking a claims bill, but he hopes legislators will honor the jury's wishes.

"Victor Guerrero was an active Tampa police officer at the time, and we would hope that the legislators from Hillsborough County and Pasco County would support the family in recovering the amount that a jury of citizens felt was appropriate," Lazar said.

Lara and Victor Guerrero had been together for 12 years and married for nearly two when he died. They met at a Home Depot in Tampa. She worked as a cashier and he worked security on his days off from the Police Department. They built their dream house in Brooksville on 5 acres.

At Guerrero's funeral at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Tampa, bagpipers played and hundreds of uniformed officers attended.

Lara Guerrero moved to Ocala a few months after her husband's death so she and the children could be closer to her parents, and maybe move on.

"It's not any easier," she said after the trial. "The ghosts will follow you."

Pasco commissioners approve $200,000 settlement for Tampa officer killed in motorcycle crash 10/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 7:48pm]
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