Man trying to catch dog hit by car, killed

Family says cars were drag racing when 34-year-old was hit


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 34-year-old man was trying to catch his dog after its leash snapped when he was hit by a car Tuesday night on the Westside and later died.

Joseph Willbanks' family said he was walking his dog in the front yard of the home on Nussbaum Road before going to work at about 9:40 p.m. when the leash snapped and he ran after her.

"I see him all bloody and he couldn't talk," said Jennifer Bell, Willbanks' girlfriend said. "He was trying to talk and I couldn't hear what he was saying."

Willbanks was taken to a hospital, where he died.

"I got word around 2 o'clock that my son was -- didn't make it," James Willbanks said while crying. "He was at (UF Health Jacksonville) and he passed away."

Bell said the neighbors were drag racing in two cars on the street, traveling at a high speed when Willbanks was hit. The dog is OK.

Police are investigating that claim and have not yet released what caused the crash. The speed limit on the road is 30 mph.


The driver of the car that struck Willbanks stopped at the scene and blood was drawn to see if he was under the influence, but he was not arrested as of Wednesday afternoon.

Those who live in the neighborhood said the length of the skid marks on the road show the person was going way too fast.

Joseph Willbanks' ailing father is devastated and frustrated that he hasn't heard from the driver or his family.

"Nobody apologized. Nobody bothered to come over here, and the house is across the street," James Willbanks said.

Willbanks' family said the man worked two jobs as a sous chef and as a food safety inspector at a local factor. He did not have any children of his own.

"All he did was just chased a dog. That is it. That is it," said Wanda Willbanks, Joseph Willbanks' stepmother. "He didn't get on, he didn't start it. He was just a chasing a dog that ran away."

"Very loving," Bell said. "He took my daughter in like she was his own. He was a hard worker. He worked two jobs to take care of us, to provide for us."