DUNEDIN — A Dunedin man faces a charge of leaving the scene of an accident with injury after he drove into a sheriff’s deputy who had stepped from her car during a traffic stop, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputy Elizabeth Temple, 37, received minor injuries early Thursday when she was hit by the side mirror of a vehicle driven by Jonathan Stuart Chinchilla, 32, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. Chinchilla fled the scene and was tracked to his home less than half a mile away, where he was arrested about 5:40 a.m.
It was the second day in a row that a motorist struck a first responder working in traffic in Pinellas County. On Wednesday, a Palm Harbor firefighter was seriously injured when a pickup truck driver ran into two fire trucks, the firefighter and a fire hydrant as the firefighter was responding to an earlier crash. The pickup driver died.
The Dunedin crash occurred as Deputy Temple was working with the Sheriff’s Office DUI unit. She conducted a traffic stop on a white Ford van at Skinner Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The van stopped in the center left-turn lane on Skinner Boulevard and Temple approached the driver’s side on foot.
As she spoke to the driver, she noticed a vehicle heading toward her on Skinner Boulevard. She tried to get out of the way but was hit by the vehicle’s driver-side rearview mirror. The car fled.
Deputies were able to identify the car as a 2016 blue Mazda 6 and the driver as Chinchilla, the Sheriff’s Office said. With help from a sheriff’s helicopter, spotted the car at Chinchilla’s apartment in the 1100 block of Bass Boulevard In Dunedin.
Impairment appears to be a factor in the crash, the Sheriff’s Office said.
In its news release, the Sheriff’s Office reminded motorists about Florida’s Move Over Law, requiring them to move over a lane if it’s safe to do so for stopped law enforcement and emergency vehicles. When it isn’t safe, or on a two-lane road, the law requires slowing to 20 mph below the posted speed limit instead.