By Susan Jacobson, Orlando Sentinel
11:52 p.m. EDT, July 1, 2011
The family of a 91-year-old man says it has been handed some measure of justice now that the Orange County Sheriff's Office wants to fire the deputy who killed him with her speeding patrol car.
An internal investigation released Friday found that Deputy Malinda Miller, 29, violated sheriff's rules when she exceeded the speed limit while responding to a non-emergency request for backup, did not wear her seat belt and crashed into Ed "Fast Eddie" Soistman Sr.
"I'm very pleased that Sheriff Demings has taken the right action to at least get a reckless driver out of a police car," Ed Soistman Jr. of Winter Park said Friday. "I think this at least affirms that the sheriff has no intention of letting this happen again."
An internal investigation released late Friday revealed that just prior to the Aug. 17 crash, Deputy Malinda Miller was driving 86 mph on Magnolia Homes Road, where the speed limit was 40 mph. At the point of impact a few blocks south of Maitland Boulevard, she had braked and was traveling at 62 mph, records show.
Soistman, a widowed great-grandfather who had just stopped at a stop sign in his white Buick, was moving at 12 mph as he left Calloway Drive, where he had lived for more than five decades, investigators determined.
Miller was trying to catch up with a burglary suspect. Soistman, a lay minister and retired Lockheed Martin executive, was on his way to the hospital to visit a friend before surgery. The T-bone collision happened about 5:30 a.m.
Miller is appealing the discipline. She will go before a board composed of a captain, a lieutenant and another deputy, said Cpl. Susan Soto, a sheriff's spokeswoman. Sheriff Jerry Demings will ultimately make the ultimate decision, Soto said.
Miller will remain on desk duty until a final decision is made.
"Our intention is to fire her," said Jeff Williamson, another sheriff's spokesman.
Miller received two traffic tickets after the crash, but Senior Judge Janis Halker Simpson acquitted her in April of speeding/failing to use due care and failing to use her emergency lights and siren. Hired in 2008, Miller was ticketed twice previously on speeding charges, once in 2001 and once in 2009.
It is common for law officers to leave their lights and/or siren off "if it can be done safely so as not to alert the suspect of the impending [traffic] stop and create a more dangerous situation," Simpson wrote in her not-guilty order.
The judge blamed Soistman, saying "it is more likely that the cause of the collision was Mr. Soistman's violation of [Miller's] right of way than [her] speed," documents show.
But the internal investigation showed Miller knew that another deputy's request for backup was not an emergency. She also was not wearing her seat belt, in violation of state law and agency policy, investigators concluded. A Florida Highway Patrol corporal erroneously assumed she was wearing it, sheriff's documents show.
Sheriff's policy allows deputies to speed in emergencies as long as they do not "endanger life or property." The policy stresses that drivers must act with regard to safety and says they won't be protected from the consequences of their "reckless disregard for the safety of others."
Now that the internal investigation is finished, Soistman's extended family is preparing for its next milestone: a first trip to the beach without the man who was so central to their lives.
"We're very relieved," Soistman Jr. said. "It's a little bit of justice."
More active than some people decades younger — he earned his nickname for his ////// — Soistman until his dying day spent his time visiting the sick and elderly. It was, in part, a way of showing gratitude for a Lutheran church that helped his poor family with clothes and food when he was a child, he told the Orlando Sentinel in 2009.
For more than three decades, Soistman served on Orange County's Children and Family Services Board. He also hosted an annual Christmas party at Orlando's Great Oaks Village, where he donated back-to-school supplies and delivered birthday cakes and cookies. One of the cottages at the group home for abused, abandoned and neglected children bears Soistman's name.
Since Soistman's death, his church, St. John Evangelical Lutheran in Winter Park, has organized "Eddie's Army," which continues his visits to shut-ins.
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In: Regional News
Tags: copblock.org, cop block, ORANGE COUNTY, Fla, Deputy Sheriff Melinda Miller
Location: Florida, United States (load item map)
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