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Pinellas deputy crashes on job for second time in three months

Austin Rill activated his lights and siren when a car took off, but couldn't slow down when it stopped abruptly, deputies said.

LARGO — The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is investigating one of its deputies after he crashed his department SUV into the back of a vehicle during an attempted traffic stop Saturday evening.

It was the second time in three months that Deputy Austin Rill has crashed his fully marked 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe during a traffic stop, according to news releases from the Sheriff’s Office. Rill, 23, was hired by the Sheriff’s office in January 2019.

Rill was on duty just after 6 p.m. Saturday when he saw a 2006 Honda Civic commit several traffic infractions while headed west on Ulmerton Road in Largo, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. Rill turned on his lights and siren to conduct a traffic stop and pulled up behind the Honda, according to the news release.

But the car, driven by 45-year-old Keith Angelo Thomas, did not pull over, according to the news release.

Instead, the car continued accelerating before it abruptly stopped in the area of a shopping center at 10289 Ulmerton Road. Rill was unable to hit the breaks before his Tahoe struck the car, according to the news release. The sheriff’s vehicle tapped the bumper of the Honda, sheriff’s spokeswoman Jessica Mackesy said in email.

Thomas told investigators he felt some minor pain after the collision but declined medical treatment. Rill was not injured.

The Sheriff’s Office said impairment did not appear to be a factor in either Saturday’s collision or Rill’s previous collision May 15.

The May crash occurred just after 10:40 p.m. while Rill was on duty in Indian Rocks Beach. Rill was in his marked Chevy Tahoe, driving south on Gulf Boulevard, when he began pursuing two vehicles in an attempted traffic stop.

Related: Collision involving Pinellas deputy and motorcycle injures two

While following the cars, Rill made a sudden left turn onto Fourth Avenue, causing motorcyclist Charles P. Roberts and his passenger, Vanessa M. Bennet, to crash their 2007 Harley Davidson into the side of the deputy’s vehicle.

Roberts and Bennett, both 51, received non-life-threatening injuries. Roberts was treated at the scene and Bennett was taken to a hospital and later released, the Sheriff’s office said.

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