Monday, January 15, 2018
Public safety

Crossing guard killed, two preschoolers injured in Clearwater crash

CLEARWATER — Douglas Carey retired from the Clearwater Police Department 27 years ago, but he never stopped trying to protect people.

He was an active member of the Fraternal Order of Police. He worked at Morton Plant Hospital as a security officer for 21 years. In 2010, he returned to the Police Department as a school crossing guard.

Carey was doing his job about 9 a.m. Tuesday, ready to escort children across the busy intersection of Belcher Road and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. In a tragic few seconds, the 70-year-old was dead after a speeding Cadillac collided with another car and barreled toward him, hurling him into the air and onto the pavement of a gas station, police said.

"Here's a guy who spent 20 years to dedicated service. He comes back to help these kids cross this intersection, and he gets killed because some guy ran a red light," said Clearwater police Chief Tony Holloway. "We handle these (crashes) every day, but when it's one of your own, it hits you a little bit harder."

Holloway said red-light camera surveillance at the intersection showed the Cadillac driver, Julious Johnson, speeding west on Gulf-to-Bay. His daughters, ages 2 and 4, were in the car.

As a black Honda that had the right of way was making a left onto Belcher Road, Johnson ran the red light, police said. The Honda collided with Johnson's Cadillac, spinning his vehicle into the direction of Carey, who was standing at the northwest corner of the intersection.

The impact propelled Carey toward the pumps of a Sunoco station.

Johnson, with his mangled Cadillac blocking the street, ran away, leaving his injured daughters behind. The 4-year-old girl had been ejected from the car and suffered several fractures, police said. Neither child was wearing restraints at the time of the crash.

Moments later, officers found Johnson in the 300 block of Gunn Avenue west of the intersection. Johnson told police he fled because he was driving with a suspended license. Officers also recovered marijuana from Johnson.

His daughters were in stable condition at All Children's Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, police said. The driver of the Honda, Alexandria Clark, was hospitalized as a precaution, but was released hours later.

Johnson, 28, of Clearwater, faces several charges, including leaving the scene of a crash involving death and injury, two counts of aggravated child neglect, and resisting arrest without violence.

He has a lengthy criminal history that includes convictions on charges of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine possession, resisting an officer and fleeing and eluding, state records show. Johnson's eight-page driving record chronicles a string of license suspensions as well as traffic violations related to speeding, reckless driving and failing to yield the right of way.

Johnson, who has a tattoo that reads "Lord Knows," was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he remained Tuesday without bail.

As police investigated the crash that closed the intersection for eight hours, Carey's former colleagues and loved ones coped with his loss.

Evelyn Sutfin, who has lived next door to Carey and his family on Owen Drive in Clearwater for 24 years, said he was a loving husband who had recently gone on a cruise to Cozumel with his wife. Last year, the Careys remodeled their kitchen. He has an adult daughter and son, as well as a young red-headed grandson, Sutfin added.

"He was a great neighbor. Very happy-go-lucky," she said. "Always helped everybody out."

Carey joined the Clearwater Police Department in 1968. During his career, he spent time as a detective and field training officer. His personnel file includes letters from supervisors commending him for work on burglary investigations, and a note written in 1985 by a woman whom Carey had notified about her husband's death.

"I'm sure relaying a message of this kind is a hard task for a police officer," she wrote. "His kind assistance will always be remembered."

Carey retired in 1987, Holloway said. Two years later, he was hired as a security officer at Morton Plant Hospital, where he worked until January 2010, a hospital spokesman said.

Through the years, Carey also remained active at the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 10, often helping members who had been diagnosed with cancer and other illnesses.

"Good cop. Good family man. Just a good person. Treated people with respect," said retired Clearwater police Lt. Nancy Miller. "It's a deep loss for all of us."

Before the intersection reopened Tuesday, a police aide walked toward the northwest corner and with crime scene tape tied four red, coral and yellow carnations to the pole where Carey once stood.

Times staff writers Mike Brassfield and Claire Wiseman and staff researchers Caryn Baird and Natalie A. Watson contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (727)445-4157. Follow on Twitter @lauracmorel.

     
     
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