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Woman questions crash investigation

City police are investigating an accident involving their officer in Gulfport.

By CHRISTINA SILVA, Times Staff Writer
Published November 14, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG - Jody Robinson believes she has been wronged.

She was driving to pick up her prescription from Walgreens in Gulfport in October when she got into a car accident with a St. Petersburg police officer.

Ultimately, St. Petersburg police determined that Robinson had attempted to change lanes illegally and issued her a traffic citation.

But Robinson said Officer Michael Ward had been speeding when his unmarked police car crashed into hers as she was switching lanes. That information was included in a Gulfport report but not in the St. Petersburg police report.

Now, Robinson, 55, is determined to prove her innocence. St. Petersburg police say they acted routinely and Robinson is trying to avoid a blight on her driving record.

Robinson questions several factors surrounding the incident:

- St. Petersburg police investigated the crash, even though it took place in Gulfport.

- No witness statements were included in the St. Petersburg police crash report, including Robinson's.

- St. Petersburg police did not record the estimated speed of either driver at the time of the crash, despite Robinson's claim that Ward had been speeding.

St. Petersburg police spokesman William Proffitt said police did not include witness statements in their report because none of the parties in the accident were charged with a crime.

On Oct. 20, Robinson was driving her Nissan Altima east on 22nd Avenue S in Gulfport. She needed to pick up a prescription at Walgreens, so she prepared to make a U-turn near 54th Street S, according to a statement she gave Gulfport police.

She told police that she looked in her rearview mirror and was switching lanes when she saw a silver vehicle approaching rapidly from behind in the left lane. The approaching car slammed into the left rear end of her car.

Both vehicles were nearly totaled, and both drivers received minor injuries.

More than a dozen St. Petersburg officers suddenly arrived. They told Gulfport police they would handle the investigation.

Gulfport police spokesman Lt. Robert Vincent said the law allows police departments to investigate traffic violations outside their jurisdiction if their agency's officer is involved.

Even so, it's "inappropriate," Vincent said. "I know we wouldn't do it."

Eileen Navarro said she didn't see the accident but came out of her boutique on 22nd Avenue S once she heard the crash.

"At one time I counted, and there were 18 officers. I said, wow, this is certainly a lot of officers for what seemed like a minor traffic accident," she said.

Robinson is set to appear in traffic court soon. If found guilty, her insurance company could hold her responsible for covering Ward's workers' compensation claim, said Diane Bailey, a St. Petersburg attorney representing Robinson.

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or

[Last modified November 13, 2007, 23:33:27]

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