Former Jacksonville officer dies in crash

3 others seriously injured in Alachua County accident

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - A retired Jacksonville police officer died Tuesday afternoon when he struck an SUV at an intersection in Alachua County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers say James Means, 73, was driving a Chevrolet Suburban and pulled away from a stop sign at an intersection on State Road 26. As he did, he entered the path of an S-10 pickup truck driven by 52-year-old Michael R. Pickering, of Keystone Heights. Unable to avoid him, Pickering struck the left side of Means' SUV. 

The FHP says Pickering was pronounced dead at UF Shands. Means and his passenger, Joshua Niebaum, 35, were seriously injured. Pickering's 10-year-old daughter, Aleece, suffered minor injuries. All were taken to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

According to the FHP report, it wasn't known if Pickering was wearing a seat belt, but all the others involved were buckled in. Troopers said Pickering was not at fault.

Pickering had just picked up his daughter from school and they were heading out to run some errands together when the crash occurred.

Michael Pickering retired last year after 30 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

In January 2012, Pickering suffered a heart attack while pursuing a robbery suspect, but recovered at UF Health Jacksonville. His wife, Diane Pickering, is director of communications for the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

"He was more than a great husband. He was a great dad, son, brother, grandfather, friend, and an awesome police officer," Diane Pickering said in a statement. "Michael loved his family, his Gators and loved his motorcycle."

The Sheriff's Office issued a statement saying, "His family remains in our prayers."

"Prior to his retirement, in one of his last evaluations, Mike's then-sergeant wrote, 'He works as hard today as he did when he first started with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.' And I think anybody that knew Mike would say the same thing," JSO Chief Michelle Cook said. "The type of officer that young officers should aspire to be like."

A resident of Keystone Heights, Michael Pickering was well-known to many Clay County Sheriff's Office members because he attended many of the agency's functions through the years and supported his wife's activities, the Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

A viewing for Pickering will be held from 4-8 p.m. Friday at Jones Gallagher Funeral Home, located at 340 E. Walker Drive in Keystone Heights.

Pickering's funeral is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Williams Catholic Church, located at 210 S.W. Peach St. in Keystone Heights. A graveside service will follow at Keystone Heights Cemetery on State Road 100.

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