A crossing guard was killed and two young girls were injured in a Clearwater crash Tuesday morning in which the at-fault driver and father of the girls fled the scene and was later arrested, police said.
The crossing guard, retired Clearwater police officer Doug Carey, was struck and thrown while standing on the northwest corner of Gulf to Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road around 9 a.m.
Carey, 70, was a Clearwater officer from 1968 through 1987 and has worked as a crossing guard for the last few years. He was well established in the community and had a wife and adult children.
According to Clearwater police, 28-year-old Julious Johnson was driving a black Cadillac west on Gulf to Bay Boulevard at a high rate of speed around 9 a.m. and ran a red light at Belcher Road.
The Cadillac collided with a Honda that was traveling in the opposite direction and turning north onto Belcher Road. That caused the Cadillac to leave the road and strike Carey, who was standing near a concrete pillar at the sidewalk adjacent to the intersection.
Two preschool girls, ages 2 and 4, were riding in the Cadillac, and the older girl was ejected.
Johnson got out of the car, handed the younger child to a stranger, saying "please take care of my child," and fled the scene, Clearwater Police Chief Anthony Holloway said.
Witnesses told officers that Johnson saw the older child lying in the street, looked down and ran away, police said.
"He then came back, took some thing out of his vehicle – we're still trying to determine what he took out - and then he took off running again," Holloway said.
Johnson was captured a short distance away in the parking lot of an Albertsons grocery store. He faces charges of leaving the scene of a crash causing death, aggravated child neglect, driving on a revoked or suspended license and other crimes.
Holloway said Johnson has a lengthy record that includes some 17 arrests since 2005. He told detectives he fled because he was driving on a suspended license.
Both girls were transported to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg - the older girl with multiple fractures and a possible head injury, and the younger with minor injuries. The driver of the Honda, a young woman, was taken to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater for precautionary reasons, police said.
Grandmother of 4-year-old: 'It hurt me so bad because that's my heart'
The grandmother of the 4-year-old girl thrown into the middle of the road spoke out Tuesday night.
Beatrice Butler told Bay News 9 in an exclusive interview that her daughter called her as soon as she heard about the accident and that her granddaughter, Julyisa, was being flown to the hospital.
"I just, you know, it's so sad, so sad, so tragic," said Butler, as she stood at the scene of the deadly accident Tuesday night.
Earlier in the morning when she first heard the news, she said she raced as fast as she could to the hospital hoping and praying that her granddaughter was going to be ok.
"When I went in there, I was just in so much tears,” said Butler. “Not even knowing that the father just left her in the road to die. You know, just laying there. And a stranger pick her up."
Reflecting on the entire accident itself, she, along with many others, couldn’t understand how anyone, let alone the child’s father could do what police said he did.
"That's my grandbaby,” Butler said. “You just leave her there just to die. I couldn't get here fast enough because it just, I'm so sorry, because it just hurt me so bad because that's my heart."
The makeshift memorial at the accident scene grew throughout the night where the crossing guard was killed.
Bay News 9 spoke with Tatiana Horne, 13, and her mother moments after they placed flowers at the memorial.
Tatiana said she had been there just moments before and remembered she forgot her cell phone and as she walked back to her house, she heard a loud bang and turned around to see the tragedy unfold.
"It was terrifying actually," Horne said. "It really hurt me. I knew that he wouldn't survive."
As for Julysia’s grandmother, she believes her granddaughter survived because of a Good Samaritan and she wants to find that person.
"Whoever helped my grandbaby, I just want to thank you, whoever you are,” said Butler. “I just want to thank you and God bless you and just come forward, please. Thank you so much."
Butler said that Julysia is doing well and at the same time in a lot of pain.
As for Julious Johnson’s family, they didn’t want to speak on-camera but his brother, Jerrod Johnson, issued this statement reading, in part:
"I don't know who's fault it is. I hope that it's just a bad accident. He's a good parent to his kids. He probably left the scene to get help. He just panicked. He's not that type of person."
Doug Carey remembered
Carey was a detective and field training officer during his time with the Clearwater Police Department.
"We all worked with this gentleman so we know him," Holloway said. "We're trying to get all our emotions in check so we can do this investigation."
Bob Repp worked with Carey in the 1970s and 80s.
"First time I met Doug, he was working in Vice and I was called to meet with them to help serve a search warrant,” he said.
Repp was a rookie back then and recalls how helpful Carey was. It wasn't until years later that the two became friends after they both retired from the force.
Carey went on to be a security guard at Morton Plant Hospital and rode with Repp and other members of the Enforcer's Motorcycle Club for several years before leaving the club for health reasons. Carey became a school crossing guard in 2010.
One of the things Repp said he will remember most about Carey was how proud he was of his wife and two adult children, and a grandson.
Repp said Carey was always talking about them with a smile and now he hopes the same community Carey served will rally around his family in support through this difficult time.