Officer who witnessed Phoebe Jonchucks murder breaks his silence

The St. Petersburg police officer who witnessed the murder of a 5-year-old girl, now focuses on being her voice in court. 

"I'm the only witness to a terrible, terrible tragedy" Officer Drew Vickers told reporters, "so I have the responsibility to make sure she gets justice." 

The girl he referred to is Phoebe Jonchuck, who was thrown over the side of the Dick Meisner Bridge shortly after midnight January 8, 2015. 

Vickers spoke publicly for the first time about the incident shortly before receiving his agency's meritorious service award.

The cold, hard facts of the homicide allegedly committed by 25-year-old Jon Jonchuck crystallized very quickly that day. 

The officer was headed home from work when a car sped past him, as he was headed for the Sunshine Sky way Bridge.

When Vickers saw the car pulled over on the smaller Meisner Bridge, he confronted an agitated man who pulled 5-year-old, Phoebe Jonchuck, from the car and dropped her over a railing, where she subsequently drowned after a 62-foot plunge into Tampa Bay.

Six months later, Vickers can talk about what he witnessed. 

There is no denying the impact.  "At first it's just shock and the horror of seeing a child die" Vickers said, "Then anger.  It was initially very difficult to talk about it because it made me so angry it brought me to tears." 

There is still no escaping the memory: Vickers trips to and from work, still traverse the Skyway. 

"So it is a constant reminder" he explained, "but I've learned to deal with it better. I don't get as emotional when I drive by there as I used to."

As for the events of that night, Vickers said his first concern was an agitated driver shouting something he could not understand. 

"On initial contact I was concerned for a gunfight" the officer added, and that concern did not diminish. "When I saw the child come out I was still anticipating some type of a gunfight using the child as a human shield." 

Within seconds, Jonchuck did what Vickers calls an irrational act that required an immediate response. 

"When I saw him discard Phoebe over the side of the bridge my immediate concern was, please let me see her in the water, so we can help her." 

He climbed down a bridge ladder, but saw no signs of the child.

Vickers said when he returned to work he made "a very critical decision to start doing traffic stops immediately," to ease his fears of not being able to do his job. 

"Having a great family support system, being willing to seek professional help [to] deal with it on the psychological end is also very, very important" he explained.

His new focus is also critical: "The biggest thing I think about now is ensuring I'm prepared to be Phoebe's voice at trial when that comes around," Vickers said. 

Asked to expand on that thought, the officer showed signs of still simmering emotions.

"As a law enforcement officer, we're here for victims" he expressed, then after pausing to regain his composure, "I can't think of a victim other than a child, who needs that voice as much."