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St. Petersburg officer suspended after crashing his patrol car

ST. PETERSBURG — A St. Petersburg police officer who crashed his cruiser while speeding to join a police chase has been suspended for five days.

Officer Timothy Reyes, 29, was driving 110 mph in a 40 mph zone during an authorized chase March 24, St. Petersburg police said.

Reyes told other officers he was going east on 54th Avenue S near the 1900 block when a car pulled out in front of him. He swerved to avoid hitting it.

Investigators said Reyes' cruiser hit the median, slid and flipped. It hit a wooden pole, a metal fence and a tree before stopping. Debris from the pole damaged two parked cars.

All told, the crash caused $30,754 in damage.

Witnesses told officers they didn't see another car pull in front of Reyes. One witness reported seeing a car nearby but didn't know if it prompted Reyes to swerve.

Reyes, who was wearing his seat belt, was pulled from his cruiser and treated for his injuries.

Reyes previously was disciplined for causing a crash on Sept. 26, 2011, a fact officials considered when determining his current discipline.

Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said Reyes was suspended for carelessness, inefficiency and not taking due care to avoid an accident.

St. Petersburg police policy states officers in a chase can "exceed the posted speed limit by up to 25 mph, taking into account traffic, road and weather conditions," according to a department report. Reyes exceeded the speed limit by 70 mph.

The misconduct report stated the crash was "preventable."

The chain of events began about 12:40 a.m. March 24 when a 2002 Cadillac Deville was stolen from a gas station. About 20 minutes later, a man in a Kia intentionally, police say, swerved into oncoming traffic and rammed one of the officers searching for the Cadillac. That officer was not hurt.

Saying the driver had committed aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, the St. Petersburg Police Department authorized pursuit of the Kia.

Before the guidelines were loosened in 2010, St. Petersburg had a policy that allowed officers to chase only people suspected in violent crimes. Police can now chase suspects in lesser crimes like burglary and auto theft.

St. Petersburg officer suspended after crashing his patrol car 05/08/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 9:54pm]
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