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    Deputy leaves hospital one day after hit by car

    Kenneth Euler Jr. will take a week off work after being injured during a police pursuit of a car theft suspect.

    By AMY WIMMER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 5, 2003

    ST. PETERSBURG -- Kenneth Euler Jr., the deputy struck by a fleeing driver on Interstate 275 on Friday afternoon, was released from the hospital Saturday.

    Euler, 25, has a mild concussion, some bumps and bruises, and a week off work. He's also in good spirits, said Marianne Pasha, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

    "He thanks everyone for their all their help and assistance in getting him through this particular situation," Pasha said Saturday.

    The situation could have been much worse, authorities reiterated Saturday.

    "We were initially very concerned for that deputy," said Bill Doniel, spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department. "You don't get hit by a car and go flipping through the air without some sort of injury."

    Late Friday, the Sheriff's Office added one more charge, attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, to the counts already listed against the driver, Nigel I. Williams, 22. Williams, who was held Saturday without bail at the Pinellas County Jail, also has been charged with grand theft auto, aggravated fleeing and eluding, aggravated assault with a motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

    The charges reflect the 20 minutes Williams spent fleeing from St. Petersburg police officers and then Pinellas County deputies. The incident shut down northbound lanes of I-275 for several hours.

    The final moments were a demolition derby: Williams rammed his Jeep into Euler and his patrol car as the deputy tossed "Stop Sticks" onto the interstate. The Sheriff's Office still is investigating whether Euler was struck by Williams' Jeep or his own patrol car after Williams rammed it with his Jeep.

    Canine Officer George Reed, who saw Euler knocked into the air, then hit the Jeep with his sport utility vehicle. The Jeep flipped several times, came to rest upright and ran into a police car driven by Officer B.C. Taylor.

    No one was seriously injured, although Euler stayed overnight at Bayfront Medical Center.

    The chain of events began at about 3:30 p.m., when Officer James Knight noticed a broken windshield in the Jeep Williams was driving. Knight ran the license tag and learned that the vehicle had been reported stolen in Georgia.

    Knight pulled Williams over. Doniel explained that Knight, per police procedure, opened the door to grab the keys and prevent Williams from fleeing. But Williams hit the gas and sped south on Fourth Street, leaving Knight with minor bruises from the vehicle's door hitting him.

    Knight radioed for help, and police chased the Jeep throughout northeast St. Petersburg and onto the interstate.

    Doniel said Saturday that the agency called a law enforcement agency in Hicksville, Ga., to ask whether they knew anything about the car theft suspect. The agency told St. Petersburg police that Williams might be a suspect in a Georgia homicide. Doniel said Saturday that Williams is not the person wanted in the Hicksville homicide.

    St. Petersburg officers do not typically chase stolen cars, but they do chase drivers suspected in violent crimes.

    -- Times staff writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this report.

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