ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida deputy has been suspended for speeding and severely injuring a 62-year-old man riding his bike, but the victim says it’s not enough.
Steve Greninger is now suing the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
On March 22, a trip to the grocery store became a brush with death for Greninger.
“It was like slow motion to me,” recounted Greninger, who shattered several bones and remains in a St. Petersburg rehab facility.
Around 9 p.m., Greninger was crossing the street at an intersection. He said he did not have the crossing sign at the crosswalk, but he did not see any cars near, so he thought he could cross in time.
The next thing he knew he was on the pavement in severe pain with a sheriff’s deputy by his side.
“I said, ‘I think it’s a hit-and-run,'” Greninger recalled. “And he said, ‘No, it was me.'”
Pinellas County deputy Jared Toro hit Greninger while en route to assist a nearby state trooper. Exclusive dashcam footage obtained by WFLA shows the crash as well as the deputy’s actions before and after it happened.
In the video, Toro swerves and tries to avoid Greninger on the bike. There were no lights or sirens, and as Greninger would later learn, no emergency.
“How fast were you going?” Greninger is heard asking the deputy.
“I have no idea,” Toro replied. “You didn’t have any lights. I was trying to get to another call to help a trooper.”
A PCSO crash report showed Toro was driving 84 mph prior to the crash and 70 mph on impact. The posted speed limit is 45 mph, according to the report.
Just minutes before, the recorder in Toro’s SUV clocked him going 103 mph on another road, more than 50 miles above the posted speed limit.
“I think if anybody else did it, if I did it, I would have spent the night in jail,” said attorney Mark Roman, who is representing Greninger in what is now a negligence lawsuit against Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and his office.
According to an internal PCSO memo obtained by WFLA, Toro violated several agency policies that night. The trooper who requested assistance needed chalk to draw a line for a field sobriety test, meaning Toro was speeding sans lights and sirens to a non-urgent call.
The GPS in Toro’s vehicle also showed he was not in Safety Harbor, the city he was assigned to patrol that night when he responded to the FHP trooper’s call. He had not notified his supervisors he was leaving Safety Harbor and had no agency business outside of his patrol area.
That same memo lists leaving his assigned area without notice as an issue Toro’s supervisors have discussed with him before. However, an agency spokesperson said Toro has never otherwise been disciplined in his roughly two years on the force.
Toro’s disciplinary notice lists five days suspension to termination as the penalty range for such violations of duties and responsibilities. Toro was suspended for 112 hours, the equivalent of 10 shifts, to be served periodically between late October and early December.
Roman said that’s nothing compared to the price his client has had to pay.
“I hate to see anybody lose their job, but Steve Greninger very nearly lost his life,” Roman replied. “And I think being terminated from the force seems to be appropriate for that.”
Greninger said he’s only been able to take a few steps since the wreck. “This has changed my life almost 100%,” he said.
Toro is not named in the lawsuit Greninger and Roman filed this week. A PCSO spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, which is standard for pending litigation.
Greninger and Roman are asking a judge to take the case to trial. Florida’s sovereignty immunity law caps the damages state agencies are liable for at $200,000. Roman estimates Greninger’s medical bills at close to $1 million.
If they take the case to trial and win, it creates an opportunity to collect more than $200,000 in damages.