Jacksonville Hearth Rescue Captain was by no means requested if he’d been ingesting earlier than his alleged hit-and-run crash, a indisputable fact that continues to lift questions.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Customary working process, or particular remedy? It’s a query resurfacing together with new details about the evening a Jacksonville firefighter was involved in a late night car crash.
JFRD Capt. Christopher Lewis wrecked his automotive shortly earlier than midnight. He’d been out with different firefighters at a social gathering, and the 911 calls concerning the wreck initially got here in as experiences of a DUI. However no person ever requested Lewis if he’d been ingesting, one thing that even an area DUI protection lawyer finds odd.
“I’d assume that they’d ask the query,” mentioned Susan Cohen, a Jacksonville DUI lawyer with 37 years’ expertise. “If for no different purpose, out of curiosity.”
Kara Pemberthy, Lewis’ former girlfriend and the one particular person to see him after the crash, instructed First Coast Information he was “annihilated” when she got here to choose him up after the accident. “He instructed me that he was out ingesting,” she mentioned in an unique interview. “I knew that was Drunk Chris. That wasn’t Sober Chris.”
Lewis stayed the evening at Pemberthy’s home, and could not be situated till the following day. He was interviewed about 13 hours after the crash by Jacksonville Sheriff’s Workplace detectives. They had been concurrently conducting a crash investigation and an Integrity Unit investigation, since Lewis is a metropolis worker and potential prison prices had been concerned.
In are recorded interview, Lewis mentioned he’d been out with different firefighters earlier than the accident. “I used to be at a firefighter operate, no matter,” he mentioned.
“Have been you with anyone else earlier within the evening?” a detective requested. “Yeah, I imply the operate with another firemen.”
The detectives by no means requested if he’d been ingesting on the occasion. They didn’t ask Pemberthy both, though she says Lewis had given her instruction about what to say in the event that they did: “He instructed me to say that he wasn’t ingesting.”
The accident wasn’t a minor fender bender. Lewis drove his 2014 Audi off Joeandy Street, taking out a big part of a resident’s fence and demolishing a yard carport crammed with bikes and costly gear. Officers on scene estimated damages at $30,000 to $50,000.
He has pleaded not responsible to pending prices of fleeing a automotive crash, in addition to unrelated prices of violating a February restraining order.
Cohen says constructing a DUI case requires way more proof than simply an accident, and even the act of ingesting. However she would count on a detective in that scenario “to ask if they’d been ingesting — if they’d purpose to assume that they’d [been]. And a variety of instances when it is [someone] leaving the scene of a crash, that is a typical thought.”
Lewis has declined requests for remark. In a press release, JSO defined whey detectives couldn’t start a DUI investigation this fashion.
“With a purpose to examine a DUI, there have to be a witness who can place the motive force behind the wheel on the time of the crash. The witness should be capable to hold the motive force inside their sight till an officer arrives on scene. On this state of affairs, that was not the case. The detectives weren’t capable of find and communicate to the topic for a number of hours. Per statute, the detective didn’t have the necessities crucial to start a DUI investigation; due to this fact, he was solely investigating the hit and run crash.”
Since officers by no means noticed Lewis driving the automotive, and couldn’t find him for a lot of hours, Cohen says that might make it troublesome if not not possible to cost somebody with DUI.
“If the query is, would they usually ask individuals in the event that they’d been ingesting? They most likely would ask them. … Whether or not it was particular remedy? ‘Do not ask do not inform?‘ I can not let you know that, I can simply let you know they nonetheless would have needed to have extra proof.”
Lewis is at the moment on restricted administrative responsibility whereas his two prison prices play out. He’s due again in court docket Could 18.