PINELLAS PARK — A 67-year-old grandmother was in critical condition Wednesday after a bizarre incident Tuesday night in which she was thrown from the hood of a speeding car and run over by another vehicle.
Jeri O'Quinn, a former longtime volunteer for the Pinellas Park Police Department, sustained serious head injuries in the incident at 62nd Street and 110th Avenue N.
The driver of the car she was clinging to, Admir Mrakovic, 24, of 6922 17th Way N in St. Petersburg, has been arrested on charges of attempted murder, reckless driving and leaving the scene of a crash with injury.
Police said they first learned of the incident about 9 p.m. Tuesday when they received a report of a reckless driver. When the officer arrived in that area, he found O'Quinn bleeding in the street. A blue Saturn sedan was off to the side of the road.
The driver told police that O'Quinn had been clinging to the hood of a gold Nissan that was speeding and weaving down 62nd Street N. The Nissan, occupied by two males, then slammed on its brakes as it approached the intersection at 110th Avenue.
O'Quinn flew off the car and slid into the path of the Saturn, which hit her. The Nissan sped away.
"She actually wasn't expected to survive the night," Pinellas Park Capt. Sandy Forseth said. "She has severe injuries. The last I heard she was conscious but not talking."
Pinellas Park police believe the incident began with a disturbance at a nearby mobile home.
They said that just before they were called to the scene, deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office were called to a disturbance at 6082 105th Ter. N.
Someone had called 911 and said a person was stealing things from there.
Witnesses there told deputies that the home's owner had climbed onto a gold Nissan's hood as it was leaving. The Nissan then started driving erratically, running over signs and weaving back and forth along 106th Avenue as O'Quinn clung to a windshield wiper.
The wiper was later found ripped from the car, lying next to O'Quinn, police said.
About 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, detectives found Mrakovic, the driver and owner of the suspected Nissan.
He told police he went to 6082 105th Ter. N, where he and his girlfriend recently were evicted, to get his wallet. He said that as he was leaving, he was confronted by O'Quinn, who owned the home and lived nearby at 6105 106th Ave. N.
Mrakovic said O'Quinn accused him of stealing and tried to attack him with a knife. He said he was trying to leave when she jumped on the hood.
"After that, he didn't elaborate," Forseth said.
News of O'Quinn's injuries were a blow to the Police Department, where she and her late husband were volunteers until his death in 2007.
"For us, it was devastating news that she was involved in this," said Sgt. Brian Unmisig, who helped train O'Quinn in the department's Citizens Police Academy several years ago. "She and her husband had both become like family."
Unmisig said O'Quinn was practically a part-time employee at the department, logging almost 2,000 hours of volunteer work.
She and her husband learned how to direct traffic and handle citizen complaints. In 2004, they adopted a pet project called "Seniors vs. Crime," in which they uncovered organized fraud, investigated complaints and mediated disputes for local seniors. They also raised money to provide medical care and vests to the department's police dogs.
Recently, O'Quinn was working on a fundraiser as part of the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, which Unmisig said she was still active in.
Unmisig said he visited O'Quinn at Bayfront Medical Center on Wednesday. He said her injuries are severe.
He said that while the department doesn't advocate anyone trying to deal with a crime alone, it didn't surprise him that O'Quinn, whom he described as "spunky," had done what she'd done. He said she's the type of person who would defend herself or her property if she felt she was wronged.
"She's clearly not out of the woods yet," he said. "But she's feisty. She's a fighter."