WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – Driving at high speeds on congested roadways is always a recipe for disaster, but apparently, one sheriff’s deputy from Palm Beach County, Fla., thinks it’s okay to disregard his oath to protect and serve.
The Palm Beach Post reports Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy Brandon Hegele has a problem. A problem his superiors knew about before he crashed into a Smart car in May 2016 — severely injuring driver Harry Deshommes.
Law Enforcement Online reports,
According to the Palm Beach Post, Hegele was driving more than 100 mph and switched lanes nine times only turning his emergency lights on before going through two intersections.
Hegele’s leadership was aware of the deputies erratic driving. According to sheriff’s Internal Affairs records obtained by the Palm Beach Post, Hegele was involved in at least six crashes in his cruiser resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damages, but was usually just given a written reprimand.
Now, according to court records, Hegele is set to go to trial on Aug. 28 on charges of reckless driving in the May 27, 2016.
Scott Richardson, Hegele’s lawyer, declined to comment on the case for the Palm Beach Post.
The trial will center on Hegele’s response to a “Be On The Look-Out” alert issued for a red vehicle that Palm Springs police said had left the area traveling west. Though it’s unclear from the reports what the car was wanted for, sergeants in command told deputies not to pursue it and to keep a distance, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Dashboard camera footage published by the Palm Beach Post shows Hegele weaving in and out of lanes as his speed increases — eventually reaching 104 mph.
Investigators tell the Palm Beach Post Deshommes made a U-turn in his Smart car, six seconds before the impact. In those six seconds, investigators say Hegele traveled a distance of 883 feet — the length of nearly three football fields.
The Palm Beach Post reports Hegele has a long list of infractions to include backing into another cruiser, falling asleep at the wheel, rear-ending a car at an intersection and failure to report a crash.
In May 2012, a supervisor checked Hegele’s vehicle during a routine inspection and noticed the deputy’s personal Glock 21 was found between the driver-side seat and the console in his cruiser with a bullet missing. Sergeant Neil Honkala said the gun was “clearly visible” from outside the vehicle and was dirty. Hegele told Honkala he forgot he put it there and didn’t know why a bullet was missing. He said he was moving and didn’t want the gun to get into his 4-year-old daughter’s hands, so he placed it in his patrol car.
The Palm Beach Post reports in lieu of termination as recommended, Hegele was given a “Last Chance Agreement,” where he agreed to a 15-day suspension, a 90-day re-evaluation, and a transfer to a new district, as well as agreeing to not violate policies; otherwise he would be terminated without a chance for appeal, according to documents.