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Decorated Hillsborough sheriff's deputy badly injured in car crash

TAMPA — The standing water on Gunn Highway took Hillsborough sheriff's Cpl. Clint Gomes by surprise early Wednesday morning.

"Wow, I didn't see that coming," he remembers thinking.

His next discovery was chilling: a 1999 Lexus crashed into a tree on the side of the road near Tamarind Avenue.

Inside the car, a driver was bloodied and seriously injured.

Gomes knew the man: sheriff's Deputy Malachi McCoy.

"It just hit home even harder," Gomes said.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said McCoy, 32, lost control when he hit the puddle of water and ran into a tree on the west side of the road. He was in critical but stable condition Wednesday night at St. Joseph's Hospital.

McCoy has worked for the Sheriff's Office for 11 years.

On Wednesday morning, he was on his way to the District III station. He usually works patrol but had been reassigned to administrative duties while a disciplinary matter was under review, said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the agency. She didn't give details.

In the past, McCoy has been honored by the agency. In 2008, he was awarded the Governor's Medal of Heroism, presented to first responders who knowingly risk their lives in the line of duty.

On June 7 of that year, McCoy shot and killed murder suspect Jorge Bello Garcia, 54, as Garcia struggled to wrestle a gun away from a wounded deputy.

Deputies had surrounded Garcia's truck at Linebaugh Avenue and Henderson Road after being warned that he had just killed three people. Garcia shot and injured deputies Ray Wilson and Arthur "Art" Lence before McCoy fired the fatal shot.

McCoy received the Sheriff's Office Medal of Honor from Sheriff David Gee for his actions.

McCoy is an expert marksman.

When he joined the force in 2000, he wrote on his application that he has "high proficiency" in firearm use. Then-Sheriff Cal Henderson praised him for getting the "Top Gun" award for his handgun proficiency at the law enforcement academy.

Gomes worked with McCoy when they joined the Sheriff's Office 11 years ago. "He's a real go-getter, an average guy, who gets his work done," Gomes said.

But Gomes also considers McCoy a hero.

"If it wasn't for his swift actions. … He actually saved another officer's life."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Decorated Hillsborough sheriff's deputy badly injured in car crash 09/07/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 11:51pm]

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