Sheriff supports decision to not charge speeding deputy who killed teen

The day after a controversial punishment was handed down to one of his deputies, the sheriff of Hillsborough County said he stands by the decision.

Sheriff Chad Chronister told FOX 13 his heart goes out to the family of 15-year-old Josiah Pinner. Back on January 11, Deputy Philip Montesi was speeding northbound on North Florida Avenue just before 6:30 p.m. Officials said he swerved to avoid striking one pedestrian, but ended up hitting Pinner, who died.

On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office announced the deputy will not face criminal charges, and, instead, will be suspended for five days.

“I understand what the family is going through,” Sheriff Chronister explained to FOX 13. “They lost a loved one. As horrific and tragic as that is, this young man’s not dead because the deputy was speeding.”

He said the same conclusion would have been reached for any individual who was not in law enforcement.

“My heart pours out to this family, but if this was any other citizen that would’ve been in the deputy’s shoes that night, in that car, the findings would’ve been the same,” he said. “There’s no criminal wrongdoing, so I understand they want the deputy in prison. That’s just not the case.”

The investigation found that Deputy Montesi violated internal procedures by going 66 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone. He was not responding to an emergency, but even though he was speeding, that alone does not meet the standard of criminal charges for vehicular homicide, officials said.

A state attorney reviewed the investigation as well and also found insufficient evidence to establish that Deputy Montesi’s involvement in the accident constituted to any crime. 

Josiah and another teen were attempting to cross North Florida Avenue near 124th Street outside of a crosswalk. It was past sunset and the road was dimly lit, investigators said. Montesi swerved to avoid one of the teens but struck Pinner, who died at the scene. 

It isn’t the first time the deputy has been reprimanded for speeding. It is also not his first pedestrian crash while on duty. FOX 13 has learned that in 2017, the deputy was involved in another incident where his patrol car clipped a pedestrian with his side mirror. Investigators said he was distracted by his laptop while driving 41 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Pinner’s family said a five-day suspension isn’t enough. They believe the deputy should have been terminated. 

"Being charged in my son's death. Fired. Not five days," said Pinner’s mother, Joanne, after learning of the results of the investigation. "My son's life is worth more than that."