COLUMBIA – A Columbia police officer has been put on administrative leave after he ran over and killed a man while on patrol at about 11 p.m. Saturday.
Police Officer Alan Mitchell was driving west on Clark Lane near Lambeth Drive when he unknowingly ran over Jeremy W. Setzer, 24, who was lying in the westbound lane, according to a department news release.
Setzer was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.
Columbia Police Capt. Stephen Monticelli said Setzer’s wife was sitting nearby in her car, which was parked on Lambeth Drive, at the time of the incident. Monticelli said she gave a statement to police, but he could not give any details because the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
The patrol vehicle’s camera also caught the incident on tape. Monticelli said he thought the video showed that Mitchell could not avoid hitting Setzer.
“We do not know if he (Mitchell) saw anything beforehand or not," Monticelli said. "He did pull over immediately and turn his lights on."
Mitchell was outside of his assigned beat when the incident occurred, but Monticelli said that's normal. “It is rare that police stay in just their beats, especially at that time of the night,” he said.
Monticelli said that Mitchell wasn't responding to an emergency call at the time, but the department won't know exactly what he was doing until an interview for the investigation has been conducted.
Monticelli said Mitchell submitted a Breathalyzer test, which came back negative, and a urinalysis, for which results were not immediately available.
In addition to Mitchell taking an administrative leave, the Traffic Unit is conducting an investigation into the incident. The Professional Standards Unit will also conduct an internal investigation on Mitchell.
"We do not want an officer out there when he could have other things on his mind, and after this traumatic incident, that is likely the case,” Monticelli said.
Monticelli stressed that administrative leave is a standard procedure for dealing with such events. There is no time frame for how long Mitchell's leave could be, though his interview with the investigations unit could happen within the next few days, he said.
Monticelli said the investigation will likely consider Mitchell's statement and in-car video as well as questions, such as whether Mitchell should have seen Setzer and whether there was enough time for Mitchell to react.
“These are all questions, and more that will come up in the investigation,” Monticelli said.
At this point, police say they have little information to work with. “There was a witness who walked over to the scene, but we are hoping for other people to come forward,” Monticelli said.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Police Department at 874-7652.