Deputy killed in I-75 crash; driver charged with DUI manslaughter

Charlotte County Deputy killed on I-75
charco deputy killed scene
Posted at 2:46 AM, Nov 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-23 20:30:55-05

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — A 23-year-old Charlotte County Sheriff's Office deputy was killed after being hit by a motorist on Interstate 75 during a traffic stop Tuesday night.

The crash happened just south of U.S. 17 around 8:45 p.m., according to a Florida Highway Patrol narrative.

According to the FHP, a Jeep SUV was traveling north on I-75 when it lost control and entered the northbound paved shoulder, where the deputy and a third vehicle were engaged in a traffic stop.

The Jeep hit the back of the unoccupied deputy's vehicle, which then hit the deputy and the third vehicle.

Sheriff Bill Prummell said the deputy was taken to Shorepoint Health in Punta Gorda and later died from his injuries. He was later identified as Christopher Taylor, 23.

The driver of the third vehicle was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. The single passenger in that vehicle was not injured.

The driver of the Jeep, Cassandra Smith, 30, from Lakeville, Mass., was placed under arrest for DUI manslaughter and is being booked in the Charlotte County Jail. Smith was expected to make a first appearance later Wednesday morning, but the court bailiff said it has been rescheduled for Thursday morning.

The northbound I-75 lanes were closed north of Jones Loop for several hours but had reopened to traffic by 5:30 a.m.

The deputy has not been identified. Troopers said the investigation is ongoing.

This is only the sixth line-of-duty death of a Charlotte County deputy on record.

Law enforcement departments from Lee, DeSoto and Sarasota counties have been among those offering condolences to the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.