Accounts differ in deputy’s crash

By CLINTON BURTON ; Assistant Englewood Editor

ENGLEWOOD — The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has released details of a two-vehicle collision involving a sheriff’s deputy Thursday morning in Englewood; however, the account conflicts with what a witness said she saw.

According to the CCSO report, around 9:50 a.m. Thursday Deputy John Walkuski was on patrol heading west on South McCall Road in the left lane. As he approached the intersection with Wilmington Boulevard, Walkuski reported seeing a vehicle in the right outside lane just in front of him signal to make a righthand turn on Wilmington.

As the vehicle made the turn, according to the report, a 2010 blue Chevrolet SUV driven by Danielle Lynn Whitmore turned onto McCall from Wilmington in front of Walkuski’s marked patrol car.

The deputy swerved to the right to avoid the vehicle and his vehicle hit the left rear wheel of the SUV causing it to spin 180 degrees before coming to a rest on the center line of the westbound lanes of South McCall, the report stated.

According to the report, the momentum of Walkuski’s patrol car carried the vehicle off the road, where it struck two traffic signs.

There were no reported injuries, and according to the CCSO two witnesses verified Walkuski’s account of the crash, stating the SUV failed to yield and pulled into the path of the patrol car. Both also stated that Walkuski was traveling the posted speed and had attempted to avoid the accident by swerving to the right, according to the report.

However, an Englewood woman said she saw the deputy speeding and driving recklessly just moments before the collision.

Christie Giancini said she was on her way to work Thursday morning when Walkuski came up behind her very quickly, getting extremely close before passing her. She said the vehicle did not have its emergency lights or siren on.

‘He was going really fast, going in and out of traffic, and he looked like he was trying to hail a truck,’ she said.

Giancini said she had to make a stop but came upon the scene of the crash right after it happened.

‘When I drove past, the cop car was on top of the signs,’ she said.

In contrast to the other witness statements, Giancini said the deputy was speeding.

‘It’s a 55 (m.p.h. zone) and I was going 60 and he flew past me,’ she said.

Florida Highway Patrol investigated the crash but has not released the results of the investigation.

CCSO spokesman Robert Carpenter said he doesn’t know for sure what happened and won’t until FHP report is available.

‘All we can do is wait, and depending on what they say we may have to follow up,’ Carpenter said.

Giancini said she has seen CCSO deputies driving erratically before and has even heard of pedestrians nearly being hit in crosswalks.

‘It’s happening all the time,’ she said.

Staff Writer Tom Chang contributed to this report.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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