Boy killed in crash with GPD vehicle

The boy was not wearing his seat belt, according to the crash report.


Published: Saturday, January 17, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 17, 2004 at 12:53 a.m.
A 13-year-old Gainesville boy was killed in a two-car crash involving a Gainesville Police Department officer early Friday morning.
Andre Norton was a passenger in a 1997 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle driven by his grandmother, Christine Booth, Florida Highway Patrol Capt. Mike McElreath said.
Booth, 55, was heading east on NE 8th Avenue at 1:20 a.m. when she approached a flashing red traffic light at the Waldo Road intersection. She had just finished picking up her 16-year-old grandson, Gerald Booth, from his job at a Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurant.
Officer Michael Maresca, 43, was driving north in a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria as he took a prisoner to jail. The traffic light for northbound traffic was flashing yellow, the crash report states.
Booth stopped at the light and then traveled into the intersection in front of the GPD patrol car, McElreath said.
The front of the GPD patrol car hit the right side of Booth's SUV, the report states. The SUV spun around and ejected Norton, who FHP officials said was lying down on the back seat.
Norton was pronounced dead at Shands at the University of Florida. Neither Christine Booth nor Gerald Booth was seriously injured.
Maresca and the prisoner he was transporting, Latoria Lashawn McElroy, 23, of Gainesville, suffered minor injuries. They were both treated at and released from area hospitals.
McElroy was not brought to jail after all. Because of her injuries and what she went through, a GPD supervisor on the scene decided to file a sworn complaint against her instead of taking her to jail, Gainesville Police Sgt. Keith Kameg said.
Kameg didn't know what she had been charged with Friday night.
Neither Booth nor her grandchildren wore seat belts, according to the crash report. Florida law requires everyone in the front seat of a car and everyone under 18 in the back seat to wear a seat belt, McElreath said.
FHP still was investigating and had not filed any charges by Friday evening.
Gainesville Police called FHP to investigate, which is standard procedure for any major crash, Kameg said.
It doesn't look like Maresca was at fault for the crash, McElreath said. Maresca wasn't speeding and had the right of way, he said.
Gainesville Police are conducting an internal review, which is standard policy in any major crash involving a GPD officer, Kameg said.
Maresca's passenger wasn't wearing a seat belt. GPD policy states that if a patrol car has a barrier inside, police may choose not to use a seat belt on a person in custody if the process of securing him or her would pose a health or safety risk to the officer. Maresca's patrol car had a barrier, Kameg said.
Norton was supposed to start school at Westwood Middle School on Tuesday, said Kathy Black, director of Alachua County Student Services. He previously attended a different Alachua County school, she said. Black wouldn't say which school he used to attend, citing student confidentiality.
Counseling will be available at that school on Tuesday, Black added.
"His teachers cared for him greatly," Black said. "They were very proud of the progress he had made."
He loved sports of all kinds, including basketball and football, his grandfather said by phone Friday afternoon.
"He was a great kid," Mr. Booth said. Kathy Ciotola can be reached at (352) 338-3109 or ciotolk@gvillesun.com.

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