CLEARWATER — As a school crossing guard, it was Doug Carey’s job to protect youngsters as they walked across one of the city’s most accident-prone intersections.
Instead, the retired Clearwater police officer became the unlikely casualty of a two-car wreck Tuesday morning.
Carey, 70, was standing on the sidewalk at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road when he was struck by a Cadillac whose driver ran a red light as he was taking his two daughters to a preschool program, authorities and family members said.
The incident comes as the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area was named the second most dangerous place for pedestrians in the country by Smart Growth America, a national organization whose mission it is to advocate for better development in communities. Orlando was No. 1 on the list, which was released this month.
The Cadillac, driven by a convicted drug dealer, Julious Johnson, 28, collided with a Honda making a turn in front of him, spun around and struck Carey, killing him, said Clearwater public safety spokesman Rob Shaw.
Julyisa Johnson, 4, was tossed from the car, landing in the street, Police Chief Anthony Holloway said. Johnson then leaned into the crumpled Cadillac, plucked his 2-year-old daughter, Julyia, from it, and handed her to a stranger, saying, “Please take care of my child,” Holloway said.
Johnson then glanced at the 4-year-old, started running off, scampered back to grab something — Holloway couldn’t say what — and then ran off before he was apprehended.
Both girls are expected to be OK, as is the driver of the Honda, Holloway said. Neither girl was restrained in the Cadillac.
The intersection where Carey was killed is the second-most accident-prone intersection in Clearwater out of 50, behind a U.S. 19 and Gulf-to-Bay intersection a short distance away, according to statistics recently compiled by Clearwater.
“Twenty years of dedicated service,” Holloway said of Carey, who was hired as a patrolman in 1968 and worked as a detective and field training officer before retiring in 1987. “He comes back to work and help these kids cross the intersection, and he gets killed today because some guy ran a red light.”
Carey had been a school crossing guard since 2010.
From 2008 through 2012, there were 109 crashes at Gulf-to-Bay and Belcher and 150 at U.S. 19 and Gulf-to-Bay, according to city statistics. And of the top 50 accident-prone intersections, 12 are on Gulf-to-Bay, the main thoroughfare for accessing Clearwater’s beaches.
A long stretch of Gulf-to-Bay was blocked off for about eight hours after the 8:51 a.m. wreck as traffic homicide investigators pieced together what happened. Frustrated motorists were diverted into nearby residential neighborhoods, where traffic often slowed to a snail’s crawl.
Johnson has an extensive criminal history that goes back more than a dozen years to when he was a teenager. He has been charged with a crime or issued a traffic citation more than 30 times in Pinellas County, according to court records. In addition to selling cocaine, he has been convicted of obstructing police and three times was convicted of fleeing police, sometimes while his license was suspended or revoked.
“It’s not the first time he’s run from us,” Holloway said.
In Hillsborough County, he was found driving 75 mph in a 55 mph zone three years ago while his license was suspended, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. His license has been suspended or revoked 14 times since 2006, and it didn’t appear to stop him from driving, his records with the department of motor vehicle shows.
During questioning Tuesday, police said, Johnson admitted to running from the crash scene because his license is suspended. A police officer found him in the 300 block of Gunn Avenue, a few blocks from the scene, and took him into custody.
Now the Clearwater man faces the most serious charges ever leveled against him, including leaving the scene of a crash involving a death, leaving the scene of a crash involving serious injury, driving while his license was suspended or revoked resulting in death or injury, two charges of child neglect with great bodily harm, resisting arrest without violence and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
He also is accused of running a red light.
Julyisa Johnson, the 4-year-old, had multiple fractures and possibly a head injury, and her half sister, Julyia Johnson, 2, had minor injuries. They were taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where, Holloway said, they were in guarded condition. They were expected to recover, he said.
The Honda driver, Alexandria Clark, 22, was taken to Morton Plant Hospital for precautionary reasons and was treated but not admitted, Holloway said.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area won its distinction as the second-most dangerous place in the country based on a pedestrian safety index that gives an indication of the likelihood of a person on foot getting struck by a car and killed.
From 2003 to 2012, 874 pedestrians were killed in the area, with the annual pedestrian deaths per 100,000 at just less than 3, the report by Smart Growth America says. The organization then took into account the percentage of people commuting by foot — in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater it was 1.6 percent — before calculating the index.
Other metropolitan areas, such as Miami, Houston and Dallas, had more pedestrian fatalities, but they accounted for a smaller percentage of those areas’ populations, according to Smart Growth America’s tabulations.