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Deputy is fired after fatal wreck

(ran PS edition of PASCO TIMES, ET edition of TAMPA & STATE)

The Citrus County deputy's blood alcohol level was found to be slightly above the level at which the law presumes impairment after he hit a man standing in the road in July.

Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy on Friday fired the deputy who struck and killed a pedestrian on County Road 490 last month, after test results indicated the officer's blood alcohol content was above the level at which the law presumes impairment.

Deputy George O'Neal "Neal" Johnson III was terminated late Friday after results from a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab indicated Johnson's blood alcohol content shortly after the July 24 accident was 0.09, just barely above the level at which Florida law presumes a person impaired, which is 0.08.

No charges have been filed against Johnson, 28, who volunteered to have his blood drawn by the Florida Highway Patrol, the investigating agency.

Johnson and his girlfriend had been driving east on CR 490 about 2 a.m. when his Toyota truck hit 23-year-old Timothy Moore Taylor of Orlando. Witnesses told investigators Taylor had been standing in the dark road, distraught over his relationship with his girlfriend, who was at the scene.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney said other deputies at the scene, who had been out with Johnson earlier that night, have not faced disciplinary action. "Deputy Johnson was the only one involved in the accident," she said.

Johnson, a road patrol deputy, had been "a good employee" since joining the agency last year, Tierney said. Termination is standard procedure for deputies found to have committed a misdemeanor, in this case driving under the influence of alcohol.

Before his termination, the deputy had been placed on administrative reassignment, according to a Friday news release from the Sheriff's Office.

Johnson can request a name-clearing hearing within 10 days of his termination. Such a hearing would allow Johnson to respond to allegations related to his termination, but it is unlikely to change his status, Tierney said.

After completing its investigation in the next several weeks, the highway patrol will present its completed report to the state attorney's office, which will determine whether to file charges against Johnson.

Reached late Friday, Johnson said, "I'm just not ready to talk about it."

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