The city’s Safety Committee reported at the meeting Tuesday that a Fernandina Beach police officer struck a pedestrian in a crosswalk at the intersection of S. 8th St. and Gum St.
The man suffered a “derangement of the knee” after being hit Oct. 10 before 9:00 p.m., according to the report which was released by request.
In a written statement, the officer said lighting conditions were poor.
“I did not see the subject until my headlights shined on him and it was too late to avoid hitting him,” according to Officer Matthew Douglass, 29, whose name was redacted by the Safety Committee but released by police in the Traffic Crash Report, which said the officer was issued a written warning for failure to yield the right of way.
“I would like to note that the intersection had low visibility and very low light.”
The pedestrian was identified by law enforcement as 35-year-old Brandon Hooper of Fernandina Beach. According to the officer, Mr. Hooper requested medical help and was transported to Baptist Nassau.
“I immediately exited my vehicle to see if he was injured. The subject got up screaming a police officer just hit him pacing back and forth in the roadway,” he said.
The officer said he told the man to have a seat in a nearby parking lot, activated his in-car and body camera and then removed his vehicle from the roadway. The police report said the vehicle’s in-car camera captured the incident.
The officer, who joined the department in May 2014—according to Human Resources, said the man was hit by the patrol vehicle’s ‘push bumper’ and no damage was done to the department vehicle.
Sgt. Jason Smith, who is Officer Douglass’ supervisor, said in the Safety Committee incident report that “this incident was preventable.”
According to the City Attorney’s office, Mr. Hooper has retained an attorney and the matter has been turned over to the city’s insurance company.
Police Chief James Hurley said by phone Wednesday evening the signal for the pedestrian crosswalk was not pushed to signal it was okay to cross and the lack of light at the intersection compromised the officer’s ability to see the man.
“I’ve seen the video and you can’t see the man right away,” said Chief Hurley. “The man was also distracted and holding a phone to his left ear and a cigarette in his other hand.”
The chief said the man’s injury appeared to be minor and the department takes full responsibility.
In another incident, this one over the past weekend, a Fernandina Beach police chase at speeds reaching 90 mph ended with a fatal crash following an earlier report of a hit-and-run involving possible multiple vehicles at 2800 Bill Melton Rd.—the location of the city golf course.
An informational report released by the police department Thursday at the Independent’s request, said a patrol officer spotted a truck matching the description of a vehicle that was believed to be involved and seen exiting the course towards Via Del Ray Rd.
According to the report, the officer pursued the vehicle along Amelia Island Parkway, across the Shave Bridge and then along Old Nassauville Rd. where the truck turned left off SR 200/A1A. The chase began before midnight Nov. 10 and the report said the officer saw the vehicle veer out of traffic lanes and the rate of speed led him to believe the driver posed a danger to public safety. Throughout the 10 minute, eight mile chase, the officer said conditions were clear, traffic was light and pedestrians or cyclists were not seen.
The officer said another city police officer and a Nassau County deputy were also involved in the chase.
The officer reported that his vehicle’s emergency lights were on during the entire chase and in the last seconds he lost sight of the vehicle before finding that it had crashed and overturned at Wilder Blvd. and Ellis Landing Rd.
Two Fernandina Beach men were said to be in the car. The driver was previously reported to have died and the passenger was transported to the hospital with injuries.
Florida Highway Patrol is investigating.
The Safety Committee also reported the following incidents in October:
A man securing ‘silks’ used for an aerial yoga class at the Atlantic Recreation Center was found unconscious and barely breathing after falling off a ladder. “When he came to, complained of back pain. Taken to Jacksonville hospital for tests,” according to the report. The man was said to be hospitalized for several days. The committee heard comments from the city’s insurance representative and there was discussion that the man should have had someone holding the ladder to ensure that it did not fall. Parks and Recreation Director Nan Voit said by phone Wednesday the man was on an extension ladder and is the husband of the yoga instructor, whose company Northeast Bodyworks in Hilliard has a contract with the city to offer the program under an 80-20 percent revenue split with the city. According to Ms. Voit, the contractor is required to have liability and workers comp insurance. It is not clear from reports that the man was an employee of the company.
A police vehicle was damaged during an Oct. 28 traffic stop on Sadler Rd. for excessive speed that led to the driver’s arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol. According to a report, the driver reversed a Ford F-150 with Georgia tags into the police vehicle. The incident was reported to have occurred at 3:06 p.m.
In the Maintenance department, a worker hurt his back Oct. 17 after assessing with a mechanic a problem with a tractor.
According to notes from the meeting, the Safety Committee also reviewed the following reports:
A police officer sideswiped his car into the wall of a store after being distracted by a raccoon. The employee is scheduled to attend in-service operations/driver training.
A police officer driving in the Zaxby’s parking lot on S. 14th St. damaged a patrol vehicle after striking a large landscape boulder to make room for an oncoming vehicle.
A police office reported a cracked windshield of a patrol vehicle parked overnight at the officer’s residence. A tree limb is believed to have fallen onto the vehicle.
A police officer’s personal vehicle parked at the station was damaged by a fallen tree.
A police officer stepping through debris twisted his left ankle, feeling a pop and sharp pain around the bone. The officer was treated by a doctor.
In the Parks and Recreation department, a customer suffered abrasions after tripping and falling to their knees on a ramp to the lifeguard room at the pool. The committee said in the report that all “ramp curls” at the pool are painted bright blue but “customers do not always pay attention to where they are walking.”
Also at Parks and Recreation, a customer working out in the fitness room “rolled his ankle” on a “ground box underneath some mats.”
In the Maintenance department, an employee underwent knee surgery after coming down a ladder. According to the report, the worker “hyperextended his leg, causing him to slip off the ladder and fall.” He is expected to be off the job for several weeks.
Also in Maintenance, the windshield of a city vehicle received a 12-inch crack from an object that struck the vehicle while the employee was driving to work.
An insect stung a Utility department worker on the right hand.
A Wastewater department worker became overheated (apparently on a job site) and was driven back to the office. He did not go to the doctor, according to the report.
The Fire Department said a life guard in a training class received a minor laceration to the face after being struck by a “rescue can.”
City officials said health insurance costs are up about 25 percent this year after a two-year freeze on costs.