05/29/2003

Conservation Officer Killed During Interstate Chase

Officer Down: Douglas Bryant - [Villa Hills, Kentucky]

By Kevin Eigelbach and Shelly Whitehead, Post staff reporters

A 14-year Kentucky conservation officer was killed while chasing a suspect down Interstate 75 in Fort Mitchell on Monday, the first conservation officer to die in the line of duty in seven years.

Douglas W. Bryant, 62, of Villa Hills died after witnesses said his truck was hit by the car of a man he was pursuing.

The man, Lloyd C. Robinson, 56, of Florence, was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter, authorities said.

"From witness's statements, Officer Bryant had stopped and was observed at the window of the suspect's car.

When the suspect drove off, a high-speed pursuit followed," said Lt. Col. David Casey, chief of law enforcement for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"There was contact made between Officer Bryant's vehicle -- and the suspect's and Officer Bryant lost control.''

His pickup wound up on its top.

Casey said officials may try to upgrade the manslaughter charge to murder.

Robinson was uninjured and was taken to the Kenton County Detention Center after the crash. He was to be arraigned this morning in Kenton District Court in Covington.

Crime scene investigators and accident reconstructionists worked at the accident site in the northbound interstate lanes at Buttermilk Pike for more than seven hours Monday, causing traffic tie-ups into the evening.

Their findings will play a critical role in determining what caused the first line-of-duty death in the Department of Fish and Wildlife since 1986, when Officer Bob Banker was shot to death by a fisherman, Casey said.

Casey said it's unclear why Bryant was chasing Robinson along the interstate, since Bryant typically is a water-borne law enforcement officer. At the time of the pursuit, radio communications between Bryant's pickup truck and department headquarters in Frankfort were down, Casey said.

"We're still talking to other police departments to see if he talked to them," Casey said.

Bryant, who was wearing his seat belt during the crash, was taken to St. Luke Hospital West in Florence. It's not clear where Bryant was pronounced dead.

Robinson was cut on his right temple. He was parked in the "Y" of the pull-off for the Buttermilk Pike exit when investigating officers arrived, Casey said, and didn't resist arrest.

Bryant was a 14-year veteran of the department, assigned to water patrol in Kenton County. He was the chief law enforcement officer on the Ohio River in Kenton County, responsible for enforcing boating safety and fishing laws.

He has investigated some of the worst accidents on the Ohio River.

He was married with a 16-year-old daughter. Casey said Bryant loved his family and his career on the river.

"He worked a very busy metropolitan area on the river in Cincinnati. He was very respected and liked on the river and well-known by the fishermen and boaters that frequent the area," Casey said.

"Officer Bryant loved being on the water. He loved the river and the time he spent in the boat. I guess you could say everyone is still in shock and we are very sorry for his family."

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