Sheriff: Deputy who hit, killed teen on Florida Ave. was going 21 mph over posted speed limit

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The Hillsborough County sheriff said his deputy was speeding when he hit and killed a teen crossing Florida Avenue on the evening of January 11.

The teen, Josiah Pinner, was walking with another teen, outside of a crosswalk and without a walk signal, when he was hit.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said the investigation into Pinner’s death is “far from being over,” but said his office wanted to be “completely transparent” in the face of allegations surrounding the case.

Sheriff Chronister said during a press conference Tuesday he met with Josiah’s family earlier in the day to tell them the findings, so far, of the investigation.

The crash happened January 11 just before 6:30 p.m. Chronister said two deputies – one in an unmarked vehicle and another in a marked cruiser – were driving north on Florida Avenue when the two teens began crossing the intersection at 124th Avenue in Tampa, Florida.

The deputy in the undercover, unmarked vehicle, Phillip Montessi was driving 66 miles per hour, 21 miles per hour over the posted 45 speed limit, when he spotted the pair.

The sheriff said Montessi swerved to avoid hitting one of the teens, but was unable to avoid hitting Josiah.

The sheriff acknowledged rumors surround what happened next. Chronister said the deputy drove a distance before making a U-turn to return to the scene, but did not flee or leave the scene of the accident.

The marked unit following Montessi, driven by Deputy Andrew Van Guilder, stopped and blocked the scene. Chronister said when Deputy Montessi got back to the spot where Josiah was hit, the two deputies rendered aid until paramedics showed up.

The sheriff said the investigation into all aspects of the crash were still being investigated, but there were a few details they felt were confirmed.

Chronister said four independent witnesses confirmed the teens did not have a walk signal. He also said it was determined Deputy Montessi’s headlights were on before and during the crash, despite some rumors to the contrary.

The sheriff said Deputy Phillip Montessi, 24, has been with the sheriff’s office since 2013 and currently works in District 1 Street Crimes.

Montessi has been in three crashes during his tenure at the office: One in 2016 and two in 2017. All were deemed “unavoidable” the sheriff said.

Sheriff Chronister said one focus of the investigation, moving forward, will be the deputy’s traveling speed.

“It’s concerning,” Chronister said when asked about the deputy driving 21 miles per hour over the speed limit. “And that’s why internal affairs will review his actions.”

Chronister said he hopes Josiah’s family takes some solace in having answers regarding the investigation, but added: “I don’t think we could apologize enough for the loss of their son’s life.”

“I wish I had a magic wand to change things that happened,” the sheriff said.

Sheriff Chronister said Deputy Montessi is “struggling. He is also dealing with a lot of grief that he caused a death regardless of who’s [at fault].”

The sheriff said Montessi made the personal choice to take time off and is pursuing counseling and treatment.