JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 42-year-old Jacksonville police officer was seriously injured Monday morning in a motorcycle crash on 103rd Street.
Officer Darren Harris was escorting a bus full of children for a Shop with a Cop event at a Westside Walmart just before 9 a.m.
Harris, who had his motorcycle lights and sirens on, was attempting to block the intersection for the bus on 103rd Street eastbound near Interstate 295.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, two drivers stopped for Harris, obscuring the view of the driver in the outside lane, who struck Harris.
“He has been upgraded from a life-threatening condition to a stable condition," JSO Chief Tom Hackney said.
Harris suffered injuries to his face and bad cut to his leg, which rescuers initially thought might be a compound fracture, but it was not.
Sheriff Mike Williams and other JSO officers have been stopping by UF Health to check on Harris, who is an 18-year veteran with JSO. As of Wednesday, Harris was continuing to improve in the hospital. He is expected to be at UF Health until the weekend.
"I want to remind everyone that the hazards on our roadways are significant, especially at this time of year," Williams said in a statement. "Please remember to exercise great caution and courtesy when driving, walking near roadways, cycling, and especially in and around any shopping areas. We appreciate the outpouring of concern for Officer Harris and thank you all for that.”
Hackney said because of the obscured view, the initial assessment at the scene is that the driver, whose name was not released, will likely not face charges in the crash.
"It's a very dangerous job. These can happen at any time," Hackney said. "It's a tragic turn of events for such a happy event."
The Shop with a Cop event, in connection with the Fraternal Order of Police, allows underprivileged children a chance to shop with an officer for holiday gifts at a local Walmart, using donated funds.
Officers involved in the event were concerned for Harris but made sure the incident didn't stop them from helping the children.
"I’d like to thank the police for putting this together for doing this and putting this together for us, because we really needed this for the holidays, and it’s good that someone else cares," Montez Jackson said.
Officer Sheila Caldwell said her shopping buddies ending up going through the checkout line more than once, so they could spend all the money on their gift cards.
"They got a lot of good stuff," Caldwell said.
The officers said they enjoyed spreading Christmas cheer.
"The Christmas spirit is something that sometimes dies in people," Officer Lonnie Hall said. "And it takes happy people to bring it back to people that don’t feel it anymore."