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Veteran Officer Dies After Fight With Motorist

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May 16, 2004

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Veteran Officer Dies After Fight With Motorist

Officer Down: Cpl. Pat Healey - [Fort Myers, Florida]

Cpl. Pat Healey, 55, was known as a family man, 'cop's cop'

By ALISON KEPNER, The News-Press (Fort Myers, Fla.)

An off-duty Lee County sheriff’s corporal who collapsed with an apparent heart attack last week during a scuffle with a motorist died at 10 p.m. Thursday, sheriff’s officials said.

Cpl. Pat Healey, 55, of Cape Coral, was a 14-year veteran of the agency who targeted aggressive drivers as part of the traffic unit. Funeral services will be Tuesday.

“Even though he was off-duty, he took action to protect the community,” said Cpl. Wade Douty, a close friend acting as the family spokesman. “He did the right thing up until the very end.”

The other driver, 20-year-old Junior Celestin, was arrested last week on traffic charges related to the crash. The investigation into the incident is continuing, sheriff’s officials said.

Friends remembered Healey on Friday as a family man who loved his wife, Robin, and children, Patrick and Erica. He enjoyed traveling, including trips to the Florida Keys, they said.

At work, he was “a cop’s cop,” Douty said. “He was always there for the guys.”

Former deputy Mike Scott, now a candidate for sheriff, became good friends with Healey while working with him in the west district. He described Healey as a “gentle giant.

“He was a no-nonsense officer,” Scott said, adding that he was “the type of officer that you didn’t have any questions about ... you knew he was going to be there (for you).”

Healey joined the sheriff’s office on May 24, 1990, as a correctional officer. He transferred to road patrol in April 1995 and was promoted to corporal in November 2000. He joined the traffic unit in 2001.

“He was known throughout the agency,” Chief David Bonsall said. “(His death) touches a lot of people.”

Many of Healey’s fellow officers in the traffic unit spent much of their off-duty time during the past week at the hospital, supporting Healey’s family and each other, said Capt. Gene Sims, who oversees the special operations division that includes the traffic unit.

Some of the officers will serve as pallbearers, he said.

Healey was driving toward Fort Myers Beach on San Carlos Boulevard in a silver Chrysler convertible on May 7 when he noticed an erratic driver and called in a report to the sheriff’s office.

A few minutes later, his car was struck on the passenger’s side by the same car, a 1989 Honda Civic, authorities said.

Celestin, of 1919 Ricardo Ave. in Fort Myers, continued driving across the Matanzas Pass Bridge. Healey followed him. Celestin crashed at the end of the bridge, and a fight began between the two men, sheriff’s officials said.

Healey suffered what appeared to be a heart attack and collapsed during the scuffle. After the fight, Celestin ran toward the beach but later was arrested by a deputy, authorities said.

The memorial service is Tuesday at First Assembly of God Church, 4701 Summerlin Road. A public viewing is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with the funeral at 1 p.m.

A burial at Coral Ridge Funeral Home and Cemetery, 1630 S.W. Pine Island Road, will follow the service.

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