BARTOW — A former law enforcement officer faces as much as 39 years in prison when he’s sentenced April 5 after pleading no contest to DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in a hit-and-run crash in April.
John Luther Camfield, 49, of Davenport, measured a blood-alcohol level of 0.175, more than double the legal limit of 0.08, after hitting five Dundee Ridge Middle Academy students walking along the shoulder of the road.
The force of the collision severed 13-year-old Jaheim Robertson’s spinal cord from his brain, and he died April 28 — the morning after the collision. The other students recovered from their injuries.
Camfield, an 18-year law enforcement veteran of 10 different agencies in Mississippi, has pleaded without an agreement with prosecutors, giving Circuit Judge Wayne Durden broad latitude in imposing his sentence. DUI manslaughter carries a mandatory sentence of four years in state prison.
In addition to DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide with failure to render aid, Camfield entered no contest pleas Feb. 9 to DUI with serious bodily injury and four counts of DUI. By pleading no contest, he’s neither contesting nor admitting to the allegations against him. Legally, the plea carries the same weight as a guilty plea.
Authorities reported that Camfield was northbound on Allegheny Road near Athabasca Drive in Poinciana in his 2008 Kia Rio at about 5 p.m. April 27 when his car veered onto the east shoulder, striking the students.
Four of them were treated at the scene for minor injuries. Jaheim and another student, Juan Mena, 13, were taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando following the collision.
A witness driving behind Camfield told Polk County Sheriff’s deputies that he briefly slowed down after hitting the students, then accelerated and turned onto Poinciana Parkway, where he collided with a Nissan Murano driven by Olivia Oliver of Poinciana. She wasn’t injured, but the crash disabled Camfield’s Kia, reports stated.
Meanwhile, the 11-year-old daughter of Jonathan “J.J.” Quintana, an off-duty deputy who lives nearby, called him asking that he pick her up at the bus stop. It was during that call that the students were struck, sending Quintana out the door in his bare feet to render whatever aid he could. Other parents, including two nurses, also responded to the scene.
When Quintana learned Camfield had crashed his car down the road, he raced home and responded to the second accident scene in his patrol car.
Camfield had remained at the scene, and Quintana took him into custody. He initially refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test, so deputies obtained a search warrant for it.
At a press conference after the crash, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said he’d spoken with some of Camfield’s former supervisors, who described him as a skilled detective, but one who struggled with a drinking problem.
“He liked to brag that he and Captain Morgan (rum) had a special relationship,” Judd said.
Suzie Schottelkotte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-533-9070. Follow her on Twitter @southpolkscene.