COLUMBIA — Although the Columbia police officer who struck a Columbia man lying in the road was speeding, he would not have been able to stop in time to avoid the accident had he been traveling at the posted speed limit of 30 mph, according to a report on the March incident released by police Wednesday.
But the officer, Alan Mitchell, has been "disciplined" for speeding, police said, though they cited personnel confidentiality in withholding the exact nature of the punishment.
Jeremy Setzer, 24, was struck by a car driven by Mitchell, who has been with the department six years, at approximately 11 p.m. March 28 on Clark Lane.
The report, released today, has been held up for almost three months while police waited for toxicology results, said Public Information Officer Jessie Haden. The results indicated the presence of alcohol and THC — the major psychoactive ingredient of marijuana — in Setzer’s body, according to the report.
The report says Setzer was lying "at an angle to the direction of travel" when he was struck by the patrol car Mitchell was driving. Setzer was wearing a dark-colored camouflage coverall, and the weather was a mix of light snow and rain, which contributed to low visibility for the officer, the report states. A video shows Setzer moving his leg immediately before impact.
The video also shows that Mitchell did not see Setzer in the road until approximately 88 feet or 1.5 seconds before impact, the report states. At 40 mph, the speed at which Mitchell was traveling before the incident, he would have had to see Setzer and stop in approximately 229 feet, or 5.3 seconds.
At the posted speed of 30 mph, the time would have been 156 feet, or 4.6 seconds, to stop in time. The report concludes that Mitchell would not have been able to stop the car even if he had been traveling at the posted speed limit.
Meanwhile, the report is inconclusive about why Setzer was lying in the road. His wife, Crystal Setzer, told investigators that her husband was walking their dog on Clark Lane toward the bridge and that "as the patrol vehicle was coming down Clark Lane, Jeremy stepped out into the middle of the road and then fell backwards." She told investigators the two had left work together about 4:30 the day of the accident and that they'd been together since then. She was inconsistent in her statements about whether he was drinking in the hours before the accident.
The report also describes damage to Crystal Setzer's car, including a cracked windshield, broken front right headlight and a "tan and maroon colored substance located near the bottom portion of the windshield." Investigators initially thought the damage might be recent, but further analysis determined the damage was not recent and not linked to the Clark Lane accident, said Deputy Police Chief Tom Dresner. No charges are pending against Crystal Setzer in connection with the accident, Dresner said.
Mitchell returned to light duty on April 6 and full duty on April 28, Haden said.