Officer Down: Officer Scott Eric Bell
Officer Down: Officer Scott Eric Bell - [Jacksonville, Florida]
Fla. officer dies in fatal crash
By Steve Patterson
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Jacksonville police officer was killed late Friday night when a van collided with his squad car on Heckscher Drive on the Northside, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.
Patrolman Scott Eric Bell, 50, was driving west at New Berlin Road at 11:30 p.m. when a Ford Aerostar driven in the opposite lane by Joseph May, 57, of Jacksonville turned into Bell's path, according to Lt. Bill Leeper, a Highway Patrol spokesman.
The van struck the driver's side of the police car, which began to spin and hit a light pole, Leeper said. The patrol car caught fire and Bell died at the scene.
Leeper said investigators found evidence that would indicate May was drinking before the collision, but had not filed any charges. He said investigators were waiting for results from toxicology tests.
May was taken to Shands Jacksonville, which said Saturday he had been discharged. Duval County court records show that a Joseph May of the same age was ticketed in December 2006 for driving on a license that had been suspended for financial reasons. There was no answer at a phone number listed for him Saturday.
Bell had worked for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for seven years, said public information officer Melissa Bujeda. Before that, she said, he was a reserve officer, part of a group of trained civilians who volunteer to assist police.
Another officer, Nick Butler, was driving in the same direction as Bell but avoided the collision, Leeper said. Bujeda said the officers were headed to meet with a supervisor.
The intersection, which is near Florida 9A, was closed for hours while police examined the wreck scene.
The Sheriff's Office said Bell's family did not wish to comment.
A neighbor, Mitzi Keys, described Bell as "a wonderful man."
"The best neighbor you could have," Keys said. "He was a wonderful police officer, a great neighbor, a good citizen, a great gardener."
The Officer Down Memorial Page Inc., a Web site that honors police killed on duty, said Bell was survived by a wife and four children.
The last Jacksonville officer killed in an on-duty traffic wreck was Michael Harley Boynton on Oct. 9, 1998. An off-duty officer, Corey L. Russ, was killed Dec. 30, 2006, after he drove his patrol car the wrong way on a downtown street and was hit by a motorist who pleaded guilty to drunken driving.
The Times-Union's Cindy Holifield contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 The Florida Times-Union