Injured Polk deputy thanks everyone for their prayers

Image 1 of 4

For the first time since his hit and run accident, a Polk County deputy spoke out on Monday, thanking the community for their prayers and support.

Deputy Adam Pennell, 25, was seriously injured on October 29, when a driver hit him as he was helping a woman, Jessica Enchautegui-Otero, whose vehicle broke down on the side of the road.

According to investigators, 71-year-old Charlie Lewis, of Lake Wales, swerved his Ford pickup truck into the pair and kept going.

Otero was killed in the crash. Lewis later admitted to authorities that he fled the scene.

"I remember a lot of [the crash]. I'd rather not go into details on it right now," said Pennell, when asked about the deadly hit and run on Monday.

Pennell said the left side of his pelvis was shattered. After multiple surgeries, he described forgiving Lewis for leaving the crash scene as "a daily task."

Pennell's wife, Christin, is also a deputy with the Polk County Sheriff's Office. She said her experience did not make it any easier to learn of her husband's injuries.

"At the time that I got the notification, we had only been married seven months. Nothing prepares you for that," said Christin Pennell. "Going from almost losing him to being able to stand next to him today, it definitely brings you closer in a way I don't think one can describe."

She said she has been by her husband's bedside since the day of the crash, including taking off work without pay to help him recover.

To help with the couple's temporary loss of an income, the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) hosted a spaghetti fundraiser for them on Monday night at the Il Forno Italian Restaurant on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland.

Several dozen community members and area law enforcement stopped by to show their support.

"He was in bad shape for quit a while," said Nick Marolda, President of the West Central Florida PBA, "and it's so close to Christmas. The guy is a hero. He's a law enforcement officer."

"They put their lives on the line every day for all of us, and it's wonderful, the work that they do," said Barbara Heart, who stopped by to donate.

Within the first hour of the event, organizers said they raised nearly $2,000.

Pennell said he still has to undergo about three months of physical therapy. He does not expect to be able to return to work for six months to a year.

He said he is eager to get back in his uniform.

"I feel like it's what I was born to do. I can't imagine doing anything else," said Pennell.