JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An 18-year-old man was killed Friday morning in a crash on the I-10 eastbound exit ramp from I-295 south after an officer spotted him driving recklessly, and he tried to avoid being pulled over, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
A 17-year-old girl who was a passenger in the car suffered non-life-threatening injuries when the minivan flipped in the crash, police said.
Both were taken to UF Health Hospital, where the man, Willie Sneed Jr., died.
Sneed, who was one of five siblings, attended Jean Ribault High School and had a promising future, his family told News4Jax.
"He was going to start work tonight so he could save up to be a merchant seaman. He wanted to get his TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) badge and make money and just be happy," said Tianesha Gee, Sneed's sister.
According to police, a JSO traffic officer was working the traffic light at Pritchard and Imeson roads and saw a minivan driving recklessly past him around 9:30 a.m.
The van traveled from Imeson onto Pritchard Road, the driver, later identified as Sneed, saw the officer and then jumped the median and drove onto I-295 southbound, police said.
The officer caught the tag number and called for backup as he tried to catch up to the minivan, but by the time he reached the I-10 eastbound exit, the van had already crashed.
“There was no pursuit initiated in this incident," Sgt. Jocelyn Wells said.
She said the officer wasn't close enough to track the van's speeds, and it's unclear why Sneed sped away. She said no alcohol was found in the car.
Sneed's family members said they also have many questions about the crash.
"We want to know exactly what happened and why it happened," Gee said. "I understand my brother was wrong, he was just driving and he was scared to stop."
His father, Willie Sneed Sr., said he just wishes there had been a different outcome.
"I think there could've been other measures taken than the ones taken. Sometimes, I can understand you being a little aggressive out there," he said. "But my son was only 18 years old," he said.
As traffic homicide detectives continue to investigate the crash, Sneed's sister said the family is trying to stay strong.
"I can't do nothing but be happy now. I got to be happy. I just got to know that he went to a better place," Gee said. "I got to be happy for him."