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Officer suspended for week

An investigation found he didn't conduct a proper investigation into a hit-and-run crash with injuries.

By LORRI HELFAND, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2006

LARGO - A police officer has been suspended for not conducting a complete investigation in a hit-and-run crash that injured three people, Largo police say.

When another officer took over the case a month after the accident, Largo police learned the suspect was a habitual traffic offender with violations dating to 1995.

"This was a serious case that was seriously mishandled and resulted in serious discipline," Largo police Chief Lester Aradi said.

Officer Richard Gibson, who has been with the department since December 2000, was suspended for 40 hours for not following proper procedure. His suspension lasts through Friday.

Police administrators say Gibson did not get written statements from witnesses and passengers in the June 24 crash and did not photograph the accident victims.

Gibson also lost a piece of evidence and could not recall checking the suspect's name for warrants, according to an internal department investigation.

Police Benevolent Association representative Sgt. Butch Ward said Gibson has taken responsibility for his actions and looks forward to returning to work and doing his job.

During an interview with a department investigator, Gibson said he lost track of the investigation because he got busy with others, but he made no excuses.

"There's no excuse for not doing this job absolutely perfect every time," said Gibson, who in 2002 won the department's Lifesaving Medal for saving an elderly man from choking.

On Aug. 1, police arrested Paul Hugh Martin Jr. on three felony counts of leaving the scene of a crash involving injury and one charge of driving with a revoked license as a habitual traffic offender.

Martin, whose license had been revoked four times since 2002, was driving south on Missouri Avenue when he struck a car occupied by an older couple and their son and left the scene.

Don Ingham, 81, a passenger in the car hit by Martin, suffered a concussion, a broken nose and a cut over his left eye. His wife, Shirley, 77, injured her neck, and his son, Bruce, 52, who was driving, suffered a head injury.

In 2001, Martin was cited for careless driving after he struck and killed a man who was changing his tire on the Howard Frankland Bridge. He told police his car veered into the emergency lane when he reached for his cell phone.

[Last modified August 24, 2006, 07:17:07]

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