Earlier this month, Christopher Sutherlin, a New Port Richey Police Officer was involved in late night crash in Florida. He has been accused of fleeing the accident because he was driving while intoxicated, and has recently resigned from the police force.
The New Port Richey police officer is facing charges of Driving Under the Influence in Pasco County, Florida following the hit and run accident. Christopher Sutherlin, was officially off duty at the time, and slammed into the back end of a 2005 Ford pick-up truck with his 2006 Nissan pick-up on U.S. 19 north of Main Street. The crash occurred around 3:00 am when he tried to flee the scene. The off-duty officer did not get very far though because of heavy damage to the front end of his vehicle. Sutherlin, and the passenger in Sutherlin’s vehicle, as well as the driver of the Ford truck were all slightly injured.
Florida Highway Patrol officers responding to the accident knew Sutherlin, so they accordingly called for a Hernando County trooper. According to the arrest report, Sutherlin refused to perform field sobriety tests because of a back injury. His blood alcohol content registered .148 and .151 in two breath tests. The legal limit for intoxication in Florida is a .08 BAC.
The 30-year-old had worked a political rally and then went off duty about 9:00 pm. He was charged with a DUI in Florida, two counts of DUI with personal injury, DUI with property damage and leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries. Sutherlin has been with the New Port Richey police department for ten months and is further being placed on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation. Interestlingly enough, the investigation is involving Officer Joseph Pascalli, who was riding with Sutherlin at the time of the crash.
Sutherlin, 30, cited recent events and personal reasons in a letter Tuesday to Chief Martin Rickus. His resignation was effective immediately.
Sutherlin, who had been on the job less than a year, got off work about 9 p.m. Oct. 27. Early the next morning, he rear-ended a pickup on U.S. 19 north of Main Street and sped away, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The pickup’;s driver followed until Sutherlin was forced to pull over because of front-end damage to the Nissan pickup he was driving, FHP said.
Troopers arrested Sutherlin on charges of leaving the scene of an accident and later gave him a Breathalyzer test, which registered blood alcohol levels of 0.148 and 0.151 blood-alcohol level. Florida law presumes a driver impaired at 0.08.
Altogether, he faces charges of DUI, two counts of DUI with personal injury, DUI with property damage and leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries.
The police department began an internal investigation of the incident, which also involved Officer Joseph Pascalli, who was riding with Sutherlin.
Lt. Scott Baker said the investigation of both officers’ conduct will continue. Pascalli, who had been part of the department’s DUI unit, is now working the midnight shift on patrol.
Sutherlin had accrued 72 hours of unused vacation time, which will be paid out to him for a total of about $1,300.
Joshua Vitori, who was driving the pickup Sutherlin struck, suffered minor injuries. Vitori, 26, is a former paramedic for Pasco County. He also resigned from his job last week, following his arrest Oct. 25 on accusations he stole $300 from a patient in his ambulance.