Deputy Wreck Brings Discipline
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
A tracking device showed the deputy was going well over the speed limit when his car slammed into another vehicle on Newberry road. Deputy Benjamin Fair will face several difficult questions before a review board regarding his speed, the reason he didn't have his lights and sirens turned on, among others. Now the other driver is facing big medical bills and isn't sure how he will support his family.
The silence from the dash cam is deafening. Deputy Fair was traveling 87 miles an hour without flashing lights or siren as he comes upon Willie Robinson's Ford Aerostar.
"I remember getting hit," says Robinson. "I remember flipping twice. When I was flipping, I was looking at it."
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office has assumed liability.
"We were wrong," says Capt. Mike Fellows. "The deputy made a mistake."
Crash investigators say a slight hillcrest may have helped to keep Deputy Fair from seeing Robinson's van. But they say it was his 87-mile-an-hour speed that threw debris all over the median... with the red paint of Robinson's Aerostar, and the distinctive green paint of the Sheriff's Office.
Robinson hasn't been back to work since the crash February 6th. A construction worker, his doctor says he can't lift anything more than ten pounds because of back and head injuries.
"I feel the same, but my wife says I'm not acting the same," says Robinson. "My family says I'm snapping over nothing. They say I don't seem like the same person, you know?"
Fellows says Fair was backing up another deputy on a shoplifting call, and under the circumstances, his speed was excessive.
"If you are going to drive above the speed limit, i think the policy says at 15 over, you are going to run lights and sirens," says Fellows.
Tracking devices show Fair hit 94 miles an hour at least once, which is more than 30 m.p.h. over the posted speed limit of 60.
"This is absolutely a question he is going to have to answer to," says Fellows.
Fair, who has been a deputy for three years, faces mandatory training, the loss of his vehicle and somewhere between a written reprimand and a two-day suspension.
"I think he should get more punishment than that," says Robinson. "Because if I go out there and run into somebody...they going to take me to jail. They going to give me some time."
Deputy Fair had one minor crash seven months ago for which he received a written reprimand. Because of a broken wrist, he hasn't been back to work either. He should go before a crash review committee next month.
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