Driver ticketed for running red light while rushing to see dying brother

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

PALATKA, Fla. - Joe Shofner remembers the day he rushed himself and his father to the hospital after hearing the news that his younger brother, Thomas, was dying of heart failure.

"We got in the truck, and I drove my father over to try to get there in time," he said. "We came to this intersection. I stopped, most all the way, if not, all the way. I had my hazard lights on. I proceeded through the intersection. Nobody was coming."

Two weeks later, Shofner got a ticket in the mail saying he'd been caught on camera and owed the city nearly $300. He said he and his father both went to court but were never allowed to explain what happened.

"There's emergencies that come up. We've all seen policemen blow through them just because they didn't want to sit through a light," Shofner said. "It's not about being impatient. We were in a hurry to get to the hospital."

Some drivers say they don't like red light cameras, but Palatka police say they have made a difference. In the case of an emergency, police say the best bet is to still drive as safely as possibly.

"It's never a good option to violate the laws of the road," said Asst. Chief James Griffith, of the Palatka Police Department.

Griffith said his officers won't provide escorts in emergency situations, but he said drivers should still be in contact with officers.

"If they call 911, they're going to be put through to central dispatch, which can alert any agencies that they're passing through, traveling through. They can alert the officers as to what's going on," Griffith said.

Shofner wrote a check to pay the money he owes. He hopes sharing his story will bring change.

"It would be nice," he said. "I feel like these cameras are unconstitutional anyway. And we need more police officers everywhere."

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