Clay deputy in fatal crash has history behind the wheel

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- A double-fatal accident involving a Clay County Sheriff's Deputy is just one of more than 10 incidents he's had in his official vehicle -- and he's still on the road.

On the night of December 21, 2013, Shanice Johnson, 23, and her toddler were involved in not one, but two accidents.

"She looked at her Momma's picture and she said 'mommy I'm fine, mommy I'm fine' and walked out and that brought tears to my eyes," said Ronnie Hooks, Johnson's stepfather.

Hooks says Johnson's 2-year-old Samiyah Johnson doesn't really understand what happened to her mom, she just knows she's gone.

Florida Highway Patrol says Johnson crossed the center line on Russell Road/County Road 209 in Clay County causing a collision with Stacey Peternel, 37, who also died. The accident was quickly followed by a second crash, this one caused by Clay County Sheriff's Deputy Bryant Wiggins.

"I cant see how the impact of the second one, he had to have been flying to have that car smashed," said Hooks.

Deputy Wiggins was transporting an arrestee to jail when he hit Johnson's car. A Sheriff's Office investigation says Wiggins was going 66 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone.

Wiggins was found at fault after an internal investigation concluded in April. He was suspended for three days without pay, but did not receive a traffic ticket.

It's hardly Wiggins' first work-related crash. A First Coast News investigation found that since he was hired in 2009, he's been involved in 12 police-vehicle incidents. Not all were crashes, but he was found guilty by his own department for careless driving four times prior to the December crash.

That revelation shocked the family, including Johnson's oldest sister, Tamara, whom Johnson was going to visit in New Jersey two days after the accident.

"Upon finding out this about this man, he should not have been on the road no," said Tamara Johnson during a phone interview.

According to incident reports, the 24-year-old deputy has caused over six-thousand dollars in damage to patrol vehicles. The incidents range from losing control and driving into a ditch, driving over a median, hitting a mailbox to avoid hitting a deer and receiving a written reprimand for rear-ending a car in motion on Blanding Blvd in July of 2011.

He has yet to receive a single traffic citation from his own agency for any of the incidents and remains on the road.

Related: Wiggins' Incident Reports, 1-9

Related: Wiggins' Incident Reports, 10-12

According to the Duval County Medical Examiner's Office, Johnson died from injuries sustained in the first crash. But her toddler was still in the car for both crashes. We spoke to Shanice's mother, Lillian Johnson, after the accident, but she was too emotional to go on camera again.

"It's like unbelievable, waiting for someone to come home and they don't ever, they don't ever come home," said Lillian Johnson said during an interview with FCN December.

Hooks says Shanice's daughter is now living with her father, but still visits with the family. He says she looks more like her mom every day.

"It brings tears to my eyes because I raised her [Shanice] since she was nine and that's my child and nobody can take that away from me," said Hooks.

The Sheriff's Office says it cannot comment on Deputy Wiggins' driving history or the December 2013 accident, because it is expecting a lawsuit. We also tried to reach out to speak with Deputy Wiggins, but he told First Coast News he had no comment.

The Sheriff's report says on the night of the accident Wiggins reported it was dark and foggy on County Road 209. He said he observed the red dodge in the ditch and did not see the silver Hyundai in his path when he struck it.

Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating the accident and will determine if any charges will be filed.


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