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Officer hurt after hit by own car

The Inverness police officer says his car ran over him, injuring his abdomen. The accident continues to puzzle investigators.

By CARRIE JOHNSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2001


INVERNESS -- There are bad days. And then there are days like the one Inverness police Officer Kevin Phillips had recently.

Somehow -- and an investigator said he still isn't sure how -- Phillips was run over by his own squad car. And the car didn't run over his leg or his foot. It ran over his abdomen, causing injuries serious enough to warrant a helicopter flight to a Tampa hospital.

Phillips was alone at the time of the mishap, which occurred the evening of May 16 in the parking lot of the Inverness Police Department. The Florida Highway Patrol was asked to investigate, but without any witnesses, there's not much to go on, said FHP Sgt. T.W. Prescott.

"It was just a fluke thing," said Prescott, who was still finishing his report Friday.

Phillips was treated for injuries to his abdomen at Tampa General Hospital and released, he said.

The details are still a little hazy, but here's the story as Prescott understands it: Phillips told him he had put the car in park and gotten out. Then the vehicle somehow slipped out of gear, he said.

"But he's adamant that he put it in park," Prescott said. "With no other witnesses, that's how I'm going to be writing it up."

Prescott said he couldn't find any damage to the squad car and isn't really sure what caused it to stop after it struck Phillips. The car was found next to a tree, but "it was just an itty bitty thing, somewhere between a bush and a tree," not something you would think could stop a moving vehicle, he said.

Phillips, 37, has not returned to work. The former Cape Coral police officer must be examined by a doctor before he will be allowed back on regular duty, Inverness police Chief Joseph Elizarde said.

Elizarde said he doesn't know how the wreck happened and won't comment until he receives the report by the FHP.

"I'm just as curious and just as anxious to find out what happened, but we're going to do this accurately and we're going to do this right," he said.

The episode is the latest in a series of on-the-job injuries Phillips has sustained since joining the Inverness Police Department in August, according to his personnel file.

Shortly after he was hired, Phillips stepped on a nail during training. Then, six weeks later, Phillips' squad car was hit by another vehicle and Phillips suffered injuries to his back and shoulders, said Debbie Black, deputy clerk for the city of Inverness. He was out on workers' compensation for more than two months following the crash, she said.

Phillips has an unlisted home telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

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