A Pensacola police officer was placed on administrative leave Saturday after his cruiser ran over and killed a young male in Brownsville.
Pensacola Police Department Chief John W. Mathis said Officer Jerald Ard, 35, had been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“It’s obviously a very tragic and unfortunate incident,” Mathis said. “My heart goes out to the subject in this case and his family. We’ll just have to see how this plays out.”
According to a Saturday afternoon news release, Ard saw a suspicious man in a construction site about 1:50 a.m. Saturday, while he was on routine patrol near Cervantes and T streets.
The man left the scene on a bicycle and Ard pursued, attempting to stop him using verbal commands and blue police lights, the release said.
The officer also tried unsuccessfully to shock the fleeing man with a Taser stun gun, according to the release.
After the Taser was fired, the man turned into the parking lot of a vacant business near R Street, crashed his bicycle, and was run over by the pursuing police car, according to the release.
The man, who remained unidentified Saturday afternoon, was pinned beneath the car during the crash, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Kristen Perezluha, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said investigators were not ready to release any additional details about the crash.
“We are investigating, but we’re not releasing any details at this point,” Perezluha said.
Perezluha said her agency will handle the “use of force” aspect of the case and the Florida Highway Patrol will investigate the crash.
“We’re handling it the same way we handle officer-involved shootings,” she said. “Generally we complete our investigation and turn the information over to the State Attorney’s Office.”
Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said his office was contacted Saturday morning and will await the results of the investigation before deciding whether charges will be filed against Ard.
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For more than four hours Saturday morning, investigators took photographs and measurements and placed small cones along the road and the grass to mark the trajectory of the bicyclist and the police cruiser.
As many as a half dozen patrons attending a concert across the street at the music venue Sluggo’s, said they saw Ard pursuing a young black male with dreadlocks on a bicycle eastbound on Cervantes Street shortly before 2 a.m.
Witnesses said they saw Ard fire a stun gun out the window of his moving cruiser at the fleeing suspect immediately before the crash.
Jamison Boler was seated outside with at least seven friends when they saw the blue lights of the police car, then noticed the male on a bike heading east, toward the Pace Boulevard intersection.
“The man on the bike was on the sidewalk, boogeying down, trying to get away,” Boler said. “The policeman fired a Taser out the window. The guy (on the bike) made a U-turn and ditched the bicycle and kind of did a somersault on the ground.
“Not two seconds later, the cop car just ran over him,” Boler said. “The cop ran up on the curb and hopped out of the car and said, ‘Where are you at?’ The guy was still underneath his car. You can still see his red shoe sticking out.”
Another witness, David Taylor, 25, said the male, who appeared to be a teenager, was dragged after being stuck beneath the police car.
“The kid fell off the bike (after being shocked with a stun gun) and then was stumbling because of the momentum,” Taylor said. “It was probably about 10 to 15 feet that the man was drug.”
The police car came to a stop about 35 feet from the male’s bicycle. The man remained pinned beneath the car for more than three hours before the car was removed and his body was taken away.
Police cordoned off the block of Cervantes as a crowd of concertgoers and passersby looked on.
The police later moved the crime scene tape farther from the street because they said the onlookers were hampering the investigation.
Staff writers Travis Griggs and Jamie Secola contributed to this report.
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