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Panama Park residents want answers after pursuit ends in deadly crash

I-TEAM: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was not involved in chase

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Panama Park residents are asking for answers about a police pursuit that ended in a deadly crash Monday evening in their neighborhood.

One person died and three were seriously injured after a vehicle crashed about 7 p.m. on East 44th Street near Rose Avenue, according to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has not said where the chase began or exactly how many people were in the vehicle. 

JSO Investigations and Homeland Security Director Nick Burgos said there was an investigation underway when someone in law enforcement spotted a vehicle traveling dangerously and tried to stop it.

"During a joint operation with other law enforcement agencies, a vehicle was driving in an erratic and dangerous manner. A pursuit was initiated to try to stop that vehicle," Burgos said during a news briefing Monday night. 

RELATED: 1 dead when SUV crashes in Panama Park during police chase, JSO says

The Sheriff's Office, however, was not involved in the chase, according to the agency's spokesman. 

"After I saw the tape and everything roped off and we couldn't get into the house, I knew it was pretty serious," said a neighbor named Frank. "Nothing like that happened here since we've been here. I've never seen a police chase in the area."

With the street taped off for hours, neighbors were left with more questions than answers. Frank told News4Jax on Tuesday that he was worried about his family. 

"When I saw that, I worried about my mom -- if someone broke into her house or my neighbor’s house," he said.

Investigators had not finished the crash report as of Tuesday, so few details have been released. But a look at the scene painted a picture about what took place. It appears a large oak tree stopped the vehicle from going into a home. Bark was ripped off the tree and the impact was so severe it caused glass and pieces of the vehicle to scatter across the driveway, grass and road.

"The closer police get to the person, the faster they’re going to go," said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson.

Jefferson, who was a JSO officer for more than 20 years, said officers must make split-second decisions in scenarios like this one. 

"[As an officer,] I’ve been involved in pursuits. [There are] a lot of things you have got to keep in mind before deploying lights and sirens -- the time of day, the traffic, weather, the neighborhood area, the rate of speed," Jefferson said.

He said people could have been in danger. That's something detectives will have to determine.

"This is a heavily populated area. More than likely at 7:30 in the evening, kids could be out playing," Jefferson said. "This is an area where you would possibly call a pursuit off depending on the severity of what the person has done." 

News4Jax has requested the crash report and any body camera footage that may be available. 

As far as which agencies were involved in the chase, JSO said it was not involved, it only responded afterward. State troopers said they weren't involved. The Drug Enforcement Agency said it wasn't its case. An FBI spokesperson told News4Jax that the agency had no comment.


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