PAHOKEE FLA. Nov. 28, 2007 – The two Palm Beach County deputies killed Wednesday morning near Pahokee were accidentally struck by a Sheriff’s Office cruiser that was pursuing a stolen car, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said.The deputies were identified as Donta J. Manuel, 33, and Jonathan D. Wallace, 23.They were struck while trying to remove tire-deflation devices from State Road 715 after the devices blew out the tires of the stolen car, Bradshaw said.
They were clearing the road for another cruiser to pass them and release a police dog which was going to pursue the two suspects into the sugar cane fields, he said.Manuel and Wallace died at the scene. After hitting them, the third deputy’s car careened into a nearby canal. He was flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach.That deputy, who handles a dog, was in serious condition but expected to survive, officials said. His name was not released. Another deputy in his car had minor injuries and taken to Palms West Hospital in Loxahatchee.The deputy’s German Shepherd was uninjured.Bradshaw said deputies had one man in custody, but later ruled him out as a suspect. Another man, Ernie Kirk Daley Jr., 19, is in custody and is suspected of being in the stolen car during the chase, Bradshaw said.The two people who stole the car and fled will face four counts of first-degree felonies including, Bradshaw said.According to the Sheriff’s Office, the chase started after a woman in Belle Glade called 911 at about 1 a.m., saying two men were breaking to a neighbor’s gold 1990 gold Toyota Camry. As deputies responded, they spotted the car traveling northbound on Route 715, officials said.A sheriff’s sergeant authorized a pursuit, and three marked sheriff’s patrol cars followed the car northbound.Manuel and Wallace put out the tire-deflation devices, commonly called stop sticks, in front of the pursuit on Route 715 and West Morgan Road just south of Palm Beach County Glades Airport and several miles south of Pahokee, a sheriff’s spokesman said.The suspects’ car crossed over the devices on the darkened road, and its tires flattened. But Manuel and Wallace made a “split second decision” to go back in the roadway to remove the sticks, officials said.That’s when the deputy in the pursuing cruiser hit Manuel and Wallace, killing them instantly. He lost control and crashed into a nearby canal. He suffered a concussion and a broken arm.PBSO’s vehicle pursuit policy requires a K-9 deputy to lead a police pursuit because if suspects jump out of a car, the dog will have a good chance of finding them, the Sheriff’s Office said.After the suspects’ car came to a stop, the two suspects ran from the car into a nearby sugar-cane field.About 75 deputies, backed by a helicopter and dogs, looked for the suspects in the field surrounding State Road 715 just south of an airport.The massive perimeter searched ended at about 6:30 a.m. and investigators began working leads.The two deputies killed were the first to die in the line of duty since 2002 when Donald Lee Schavolt, 48, died of a heart attack following a scuffle with the boy at a hospital. A teenager, 17, was charged with second-degree murder in his death.That murder charge stems from what sheriff’s investigators called aggressive actions and behavior by the boy that contributed to the death.
It’s been a bad year — and especially a bad four months — for law-enforcement officers in South Florida.Troubles began on Aug. 6, when Broward Sheriff’s Office Detective Maury Hernandez was shot in the head during a traffic stop. He survived. On Aug. 10, Broward sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Reyka was gunned down outside a Pompano Beach drug store.On Sept. 13, Miami-Dade police officer Jose Somohano was shot and killed, and other officers were wounded, during a traffic stop. And on Nov. 7, BSO Deputy Paul Rein was shot and killed by a prisoner he was transporting to court. Another Broward sheriff’s sergeant, Lisa DiSavino, was stabbed in the stomach early Sunday morning by a man she believed was acting suspiciously at a bus stop.
Wallace’s family said he planned to get married in August and buy a house in Loxahatchee. Manuel was to be best man at the wedding.As recently as August, Wallace was accidentally shot by another deputy during a traffic stop. He was wearing a bullet-resistent vest and was uninjured.Pahokee Mayor J.P. Sasser said he knew Wallace most of his life and said the light-hearted, playful young man would have been a real success in law enforcement.Wallace was attracted to police work at an early age. He joined a program similar to police explorers for children in Pahokee and got a taste for being an officer early on, Sasser said.The young Wallace joined the Pahokee Police Department shortly before it merged with the Sheriff’s Office.”I know Jonathan would have risen up the ranks of the Sheriff’s Office,” Sasser said.Sasser met with Jonathan’s mother early Wednesday morning after hearing of the crash.”She was not doing so well this morning,” he said. “She’s a diabetic and her blood sugar was low, but they took care of that. Her thoughts were with Donta’s family and the other deputy who was in the hospital, along with her own grief.”But it was Wallace who was always ready to pitch in a helping hand or help raise people’s spirits, Sasser said.Wallace has deep roots in Pahokee, according to Sasser.His uncle, Henry Crawford, is vice mayor and his cousin is head of the city Parks and Recreation Department.”We are definitely in a state of shock over this,” Sasser said.Sasser said Reinaldo Alonso, who is in charge of the Pahokee sheriff’s division, called him about 3 a.m. with news of the crash. “He just said, ‘We lost Jonathan and Donta. He knew that I knew both of them,” said Sasser.Sasser said he went immediately to the home of Wallace’s mother, the Rev. Patricia Wallace, minister of St. James AME Church and a member of a prominent Pahokee family. Patricia Wallace retired from the Sheriff’s Office, where she was secretary for at least 20 years, said former Belle Glade police chief Albert Dowdell.Pahokee City manager Lillie Latimore described Wallace as a “committed person” who often stopped in on his way to work and volunteered to run the camera for the city’s new government access television broadcasts.”The city supported him through the [police] academy,” said Latimore. “He stood on his word, and I liked that.”
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information on this incident to call 561-996-1670