A 15-year-old boy is dead after being hit by a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was driving 21 mph over the speed limit, according to Sheriff Chad Chronister. The deputy had changed lanes in order to miss another teen who was walking his bike but he hit the victim walking behind him.
Josiah Pinner and his friend were walking along 124th Avenue approaching Florida Avenue at about 6:25 p.m. on Jan 11 and walked into the northbound lanes, Chronister explained during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. Deputy Phillip Montessi was speeding north through the intersection in attempt to catch up with his unit during a surveillance operation.
Montessi saw Pinner’s friend, prompting him to change lanes, from the inside left lane to the outside right lane. But he didn’t see Pinner trailing behind and hit him.
A second deputy, who was in a marked patrol car, immediately stopped, called for medical assistance, used his car to block the intersection and began CPR.
Montesi kept driving in his undercover vehicle, an unmarked 2011 Silver Hyundai Elantra, but realized he hit something and stopped to check the damage to the car before making a U-turn and going back to the intersection where he joined the other deputy in giving Spinner CPR.
When paramedics arrived they took over CPR, but Spinner died at the scene.
“As a father of a 15-year-old myself, I can’t imagine what this family is going through,” Chronister said during the news conference.
The news conference was held amid accusations that information was intentionally being withheld.
Montesi, 29, has not been suspended or placed on any sort of paid administrative leave but will face an internal affairs investigation once the traffic fatality investigation is complete.
“This investigation is extremely complex, like any traffic fatality and is far from being over but we want to be committed to being completely transparent,” Chronister said.
Montesi’s excessive speed was “absolutely” concerning, according to the sheriff.
The sheriff’s office has four witnesses who confirm that the deputies had the right of way, and that the teens had not crossed in a crosswalk, he explained and added that it was also dark out.
Chronister said he accompanied the lead detective and his chain of command earlier Tuesday to meet with the Pinner family to give them an update on the investigation prior to holding the news conference.
Montessi, who has been with the sheriff’s office since 2013, is a member of the Street Crime Unit. According to the sheriff, Montessi has been involved in three prior crashes but they were each later determined to be unavoidable.
The sheriff asked the public for the benefit of the doubt while they investigate the crash. Meanwhile, Montessi is struggling and has chosen to use some of his paid time off to seek professional help, he said.
“He is also dealing with a lot of grief that he caused a death regardless who is at fault, who’s not at fault,” Chronister said.