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St. Pete cop who killed wheelchair-bound man gets job back; Hal Fleming's family 'furious'

8:25 AM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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Harold Fleming, Jr.

 

St. Petersburg, Florida -- The St. Petersburg police officer who was fired in August for running over and killed a man in his wheelchair in February 2012 is getting his job back.

The department says its hands are tied and relatives are furious.

"We thought it was a closed situation," said Rhonda Fleming Collier.

Rhonda is the sister of Harold Fleming. Hal, as they called him, was struck and killed by a police cruiser as the 45 year-old tried to cross a street in his wheelchair last February.

Now, the officer who was at the wheel is getting his job back.

"I had no idea that he even had an opportunity to go back and arbitrate through whatever means," said Fleming Collier who's angry no one had even informed them an appeal process was underway.

Fleming was killed as he tried to cross the intersection of 38th Avenue and 64th Street around 4:20 a.m.

Officer Mehmedin Karic, then 26, was fired.

Investigators say he was driving 61 in 40 mph zone.

"I understand he's a young man and he has a life to live, and I figured that eventually one day he'd have to go get a job somewhere," said Fleming Collier, "I just didn't think it would be with the city of St. Petersburg Police Department."

Karic appealed his termination and an arbitrator, whose decision is binding by union contract agreement, not only gave him his job back but close to $40,000 in back pay. No suspension -- not even a blemish on his record.

While Chief Chuck Harmon thought the loss of life justified firing Karic, department spokesman Mike Puetz says, "Clearly the arbitrator disagreed with that and has ordered him back to work."

Union reps successfully argued that other officers with worse violations than speeding had been allowed to stay on the force.

Officials say Karic reported for duty Monday and will be back on patrol soon.

Fleming Collier says it's maddening. To this day, she says her family has never gotten an apology from Officer Karic. And now to him she says, "You get to go on with your life, sir and resume normalcy. Usual. Life as usual for you, but not for my family."

Fleming Collier says she would like to see some sort of department policy change so that if this were to ever happen again, there would be no question about whether it is a fireable offense.

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