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Neighbors pull officer to safety after car smashes cruiser, catches fire

JSO: Driver plows through power pole and stop sign, hits stopped patrol car

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man who rushed with neighbors to help after a car smashed into a stopped Jacksonville Sheriff's Office patrol car and burst into flames Wednesday night said all they could think about was getting the officer to safety.

The officer, whose name has not been released, was hospitalized after the crash but listed in stable condition, according to police. Police did not release details of his injuries.

Investigators said the officer was stopped in Northwest Jacksonville on Sunny Acres Drive East at about 11:50 p.m. Wednesday when a car driving west on 45th Street veered toward his marked patrol car. That car hit a power pole and stop sign before slamming into the front of the officer's car.

One of the good Samaritans who pulled the officer out of the smashed patrol car told News4Jax he heard a loud boom and ran outside.

“It was frightening, but my reaction was to just get him out of the car. If we had left him in the car, I don’t think he would have survived,” said the man, who asked not to be identified. “That was my main concern was trying to -- that he was alright. That’s all I wanted.”

Video of the scene captured by witness Cassandra Duggans shows the other car engulfed in flames.

“It was indescribable,” Cassandra Duggans said. “The first thing we heard was a big boom. It was loud.”

Duggans told News4Jax she was sitting in her car when she heard the impact. She watched as several neighbors ran to help the officer and used her cellphone to shoot video.

“It was a lot of people that came and really helped,” Duggans said. “To me, that was a blessing because it could have been worse.”

The unnamed witness said it looked like the officer wasn't breathing when he and a neighbor and the driver of the other car pulled the officer out. He said the officer appeared to be going into shock when they laid him down and took off his vest.

"The next thing I know the driver that hit him gave him mouth to mouth, so he started right back breathing," the man said.

Police said that the other driver later tried to run from the scene but was caught and arrested on multiple charges. He was the only one in the car that hit the patrol vehicle.

“He was there, pulled the man out of the car as well, stayed right in that area until the police came. When the police came, he kind of like, walked off and sat down,” Duggans said. “I’m sure he was still disoriented and everything. Then after that, when they were about to arrest him and everything, he fled.”

Duggans said she saw the officer holding her neighbor's hand at one point, so she knew then that he was responsive. She is grateful to her neighbors for stepping in so quickly and said the experience overall was overwhelming. 

“It was scary," Duggans said. "It was one of those moments like, ‘What do I do?' Everybody’s adrenaline was pumping."

JSO's Traffic Homicide Unit is investigating the crash. The officer is being treated at UF Health Jacksonville.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.