DeLand police officer strikes pedestrians, killing 1, FHP says

Officer Tony Tagle placed on paid leave

DeLAND, Fla. – A DeLand police officer struck two pedestrians, killing one of them, late Wednesday in Volusia County, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The fatal crash was reported at 11:22 p.m. on Woodland Boulevard near South Street in DeLand.

The FHP said DeLand police Officer Tony Tagle, 23, of DeLand, was driving a marked police cruiser north on Woodland Boulevard when two pedestrians walked in front of him.

Troopers said Tagle was unable to avoid the men and struck them with the front of his cruiser.

Emmons Martin, 58, was taken to Florida Hospital DeLand, where he was pronounced dead, the FHP said.

Robert Weaver, 50, of DeLand, was taken to Florida Hospital DeLand with serious injuries, according to troopers.

The FHP said alcohol tests are pending for the pedestrians. Tagle was not under the influence of alcohol, troopers said.

DeLand police Chief Jason Umberger said Tagle was on routine patrol, not responding to a call, when the incident occurred. It's not known how fast he was driving. 

Umberger couldn't speak to Tagle's state of mind, but said the officer is understandably upset.

“It’s, as I said, heartbreaking for all of us. Our officers come out here to protect and serve and protect life and when incidents like this happen it’s devastating and our officers feel that, as does the community,” Umberger said.

Umberger said city officials are working with the Florida Department of Transportation to make safety improvements at the intersection where the fatal crash occurred.

Tagle was hired by the DeLand Police Department in June 2014. He has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the FHP. Once that investigation is complete, the DeLand Police Department will conduct an internal review, authorities said.

In February, Tagle was dragged 15 to 20 feet when a man accused of following a taxi slammed his hand in the door of his vehicle and then sped off in an attempt to evade a traffic stop, according to authorities. 

Police said the suspect, Justin Johnson, 26, flipped his SUV about seven minutes later. He and a dog that was in the vehicle died in the crash.

Tagle suffered an injury to his left hand. DeLand police said their officers did not pursue Johnson after the evaded traffic stop.

In 2015, Tagle was given a letter of reprimand for careless driving, according to his personnel file.

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