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Death results in traffic citation

A substitute teacher won't face criminal charges after hitting and killing a Brandon High student in a crosswalk.

By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN
Published December 29, 2006


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photo
Camden Allen White, 15, died Dec. 4 as he crossed a Brandon street.

BRANDON - A substitute school teacher who struck and killed a Brandon High School student in a crosswalk earlier this month has been issued a traffic citation and will not be criminally charged.

Kami Bell, 22, was cited for failure to use due care under special hazards, a civil infraction, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

She will face up to $500 in fines during a court hearing to be scheduled for next year.

Bell of Valrico struck and killed Camden Allen White, 15, about 7:15 a.m. Dec. 4 as he walked in a crosswalk on Victoria Street at Meade Street in front of Brandon High School.

Bell's eastbound Oldsmobile Alero threw Camden onto the windshield of a westbound GMC Jimmy that had stopped with traffic at the crosswalk.

Camden's relatives were outraged when they heard from a reporter about the citation and lack of criminal charges.

"I'm not happy with that at all," said Francis Bragg, Camden's uncle. "Failure to yield in a crosswalk and that's not a homicide? I'm not accepting that at all."

Bell wasn't charged with a crime because investigators determined she was driving 38 mph in a 35 mph zone, which isn't considered excessive speeding, said John Duran, a sheriff's traffic homicide detective.

Also, she was not driving erratically or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"She did not do anything in a reckless manner to make it jump up to criminal charges," Duran said. "We have certain guidelines we have to work in."

The citation takes into account that Bell hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk, knew the area well, saw other students walking in the street and should have known that others would be crossing, Duran said.

Under those circumstances, even though she wasn't speeding, the law says drivers should use extra caution and possibly drive below the speed limit, Duran said.

Still, under the law, the offense doesn't amount to recklessness even though someone was killed, he said.

"Depending on the circumstances, you can get to the point where someone has died and no one is charged," he added.

Bragg said the family planned to protest the matter with the Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office after the holiday weekend.

He was also angry that he was told as late as last week by the Sheriff's Office that no citations or charges had been filed.

Yet sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said the citation was filed Dec. 11. Callaway could not explain why his office also continued to tell the news media that the incident was still under investigation for days after Bell received her citation.

Bell, who was a substitute teacher on her way to Colson Elementary the day of the wreck, could not be reached for comment. A man who answered the phone at her home said the family didn't wish to comment.

Meanwhile, a county committee that focuses on traffic safety measures is expected to issue a draft report about Victoria Street next week, said Peter Brett, county senior engineer.

The report will consider, among other things, whether a traffic signal is needed at Victoria and Meade streets.

Also, the school district has asked the county to speed up expected traffic safety improvements at Brandon High, including flashing warning lights and reduced speed limits.

Saundra Amrhein can be reached at 813 661-2441 or amrhein@sptimes.com.

[Last modified December 29, 2006, 06:12:31]


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