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JFRD captain accused in hit and run crash was never asked if he was drinking night of accident

JSO Integrity Investigators asked Christopher Lewis if a nearby DUI by his ex girlfriend was connected to his wreck, but did not ask if he'd been drinking.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A captain with the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department New, who police say admitted wrecking his car and leaving the scene, was never asked if he was drinking prior to the accident, according to police records.

An investigation by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office's Integrity Unit details an accident that occurred on Feb. 1, in which Christopher Lewis, 39, allegedly crashed his car into someone's backyard garage.

The accident was estimated to have caused between $30,000-$50,000 worth of damage to a garage and its contents. Lewis admitted to officers he crashed his 2014 Audi and left the scene, according to reports. 

He has not yet entered a plea in the criminal case, but is due in court Wednesday afternoon.

Because Lewis is a first responder with the city of Jacksonville, his case was referred to JSO's Integrity Unit. 

Lewis told investigators he was driving west on Joeandy Road in the Girvin neighborhood when he swerved to avoid a vehicle stopped ahead of him. He didn't remember much after that. 

"I remember hitting my head..." Lewis told investigators. He said he went to a nearby friend's house with injuries to his face and the back of his head, and spent the night there. He couldn't report the accident because he left his phone in the car, he said.

According to police reports, Lewis' accident was related to 911 calls "that came in regarding reckless and drunk driving." 

His accident occurred 10 minutes before midnight. Seventeen minutes later, his ex-girlfriend was arrested for DUI and reckless driving, also in the Girvin neighborhood, with damage to her vehicle. 

Investigators believed the two were connected and asked Lewis several times if his crash was connected to her "incident." Lewis said it was not. He said he was with friends at "a firefighter function" prior to the accident. 

Investigators did not ask Lewis if he had been drinking that night, or if he was impaired at the time of the crash. 

First Coast News reached out to JSO to ask why those questions weren't asked. Crime and Safety Expert Mark Baughman says that was a surprising omission. 

"That would be the first question I would ask," Baughman said. "Given the time of day was midnight, and he's telling them he was at an event where probably alcohol was served."

Baughman says that there are instances in which an officer would not ask a hit and run driver whether they were impaired, giving the example of someone backing up into another car in a parking lot. 

"But given the amount of damage, and the fact that the biggest reason someone typically leaves the scene of an accident is they were drunk …he should have been asked that question," he said. "I would have asked."

Lewis is also charged in an unrelated stalking case in which his ex-girlfriend said he made repeated threats to her and himself when he was drunk. He has pleaded not guilty. 

In February, JFRD changed his assignment from 56 to a 40-hour work week with limited administrative duties. 

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