Polk County deputies arrested a former Mississippi law enforcement officer on 11 charges after hitting five students as they were walking home from their bus stop in Poinciana in April. One of those students, Jahiem Robertson died from his injuries the following day.
John Camfield, 48, of Davenport was driving his 2008 Kia Rio 4-door on Allegheney Road, approaching the intersection of Athabasca Drive at approximately 4:59 p.m.
For unknown reasons, the vehicle left the roadway and a witness traveling northbound behind Camfield's vehicle saw him lean forward in his car and drive east into the shoulder of the roadway. The witness saw him strike multiple juvenile victims.
Five students from Dundee Ridge Middle Academy were hit by Camfield's vehicle. They had just gotten off of the school bus and were walking home on Allegheny Road near Athabasca in Poinciana. The school bus had already left the scene before the incident occurred.
Deputies say 15-year-old Jonte Robinson, 14-year-old Jasmine Robertson and 12-year-old Rylan Pryce were struck by the passenger side of the car with glancing blows. They suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
13-year-old Jahiem Robertson (Jasmine's brother) and 13-year-old Juan Mena, were also struck by the vehicle and sustained serious, life-threatening injuries, including spinal injuries, facial fractures and head trauma. They were airlifted to the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando. Jahiem died from his injuries on Friday morning. Juan is in the ICU with orbital fractures.
Dozens of Jahiem's friends gathered at the crash site Friday night, placing balloons, pictures, signs and items to a growing roadside memorial.
"It shouldn't have happened like this," said classmate Hassan Volcy. "I remember him as a good classmate and he was a good person."
A group of parents and students gathered around the memorial before sundown to say a prayer.
"We just pray for God to take that spirit and bring it to Heaven," said Wanda Gonzalez.
Aneliese McNeal, a close friend of Jahiem's sister, Jasmine, says she believes the 13-year-old is now in a better place.
"If she feels like she's lost someone important, she has," said McNeal. "But there's always going to be people to support her."
At a news conference on Friday, Sheriff Grady Judd said "this drunk man in this car drove off of the road and ran through these children and scattered them like a bowling ball through bowling pins. Then he left the scene."
Heartbreaking to see the innocent faces. School releases pics of Juan and Jaheim. The two most critical in drunk driving accident. pic.twitter.com/fT6VzYAWfB
After driving away from the scene, Camfield hit a parked car on Poinciana Parkway. The sole occupant of that car, Olivia Oliver, is 4-months-pregnant and was not seriously injured.
Camfield was arrested for two counts DUI with serious bodily injury, two counts leaving the scene of a crash with serious bodily injury, two counts leaving the scene of a crash with bodily injury, three counts DUI with injury, property damage, and one count of reckless driving.
On Friday, February 9, 2018, Camfield changed his plea from not guilty to no contest and is asking the Judge to sentence him. Camfield will be sentenced on April 5, 2018.
"This is a man who is a total drunk.... so drunk, he fell into the deputy's patrol car and dented it up." - Sheriff Judd
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On Thursday evening, off-duty Deputy Sheriff Jonathan "JJ" Quintana, who lives in the area, was on the phone with his 11-year-old daughter, who had called him to come pick her up from the bus stop when she saw the whole thing unfold. Quintana's daughter witnessed Camfield crash into the five children and started yelling into the phone. Deputy Quintana ran out of his house, barefoot, to the scene.
When he arrived on scene, he found the injured students and ran back to his patrol car to get his first aid kit. He got into his patrol car and drove back to the scene to help the victims. Two nurses were helping the victims when he arrived. They told him which way the vehicle went. Deputy Quintana caught up with the suspect vehicle on Poinciana Parkway after it had crashed into a stopped car. Deputy Quintana detained Camfield while calling for backup. Polk County deputies were already on the way to the scene after witnesses called police.
During Friday's news conference, Deputy Quintana said "I've seen a lot, I've been involved in a lot... (in tears) nothing compares to hearing your daughter ask for help and you can't do nothing."
After the crash, a search warrant was obtained for the suspect's blood and those results are currently pending toxicology results.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office says at 11:47 p.m. on Thursday night, a breath test was conducted on Camfield at the Polk County Jail. At that time, Camfield had a BAC of .147.
The ABC Action News I-Team has confirmed that Camfield was a police officer for multiple agencies in Mississippi. The Panama City News Herald reported that Camfield was shot in the line of duty while chasing a suspect in July of 1997 while he was a Horn Lake police officer.
He is being charged with four counts of DUI with property damage, one count of DUI, one count of DUI with serious bodily injury, one count of DUI manslaughter, one count of reckless driving with serious bodily injury, one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury, one count of vehicular homicide, and one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving death.
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