By ALICIA LEONARD
A local resident and motorcycle rider is incensed that the person whom allegedly attacked him with a vehicle in a south Walton Publix parking lot is still at large.
On May 7, Jeffery Curzio said he was traveling north on CR-395 when an older model (1997-2003) light Blue Ford F-150 extended-cab truck ran a stop sign in front of Regions Bank with no headlights on. Curzio said he had to go around the vehicle to avoid hitting it or run off the road and into the woods. Curzio then turned into the Publix grocery parking lot, only to have the driver follow him and hit him twice with the front of his truck, the second time pinning the motorcycle on top of Curzio. The driver then sped away, “driving like a madman” on his way out of the parking lot and warned Curzio, “He told me I needed to respect the locals and learn the “new” rules of south Walton.”
Curzio described the driver as a white male in his 40s with longish hair. Curzio said the truck also had a chrome toolbox on the back and he got a partial Walton tag number that was C44. Curzio said he is having a hard time understanding what is taking so long for the arrest of the individual since the tag number and plate were Walton issue. “I just don’t understand it. I mean how many blue F-150s with that tag number can there be in Walton County? The sheriff’s department has resources I don’t have to find this guy. I feel at this point, if I took a week off of work and just drove around, I could have probably have found him by now.”
Curzio said his frustration at being run over is compounded by feeling “left out of the loop” where the Walton County Sheriffs Office (WCSO) investigation is concerned. Curzio said he had spoken with the investigator the case was turned over to, twice, and “to the best of my memory, I initiated that contact both times.” Curzio also told the Herald that there were many witness to the event and they had stated that they could smell beer and liquor coming from the vehicle.
When the WCSO was contacted over this issue, Public Information Officer Mike Gurspan responded, “Keep in mind the case remains an active investigation, so I really can’t get into the nitty-gritty details. But, there are several new developments in the case, which will hopefully lead to the identification of the hit-and-run driver, and an arrest. But, we have to be careful that not only do we have the correct person, but also that we have built a case that will get a conviction. We are actively working this case.”
Gurspan also cautioned that the department is concerned that the wrong driver may be targeted for harassment since there is a similar vehicle in the area that shares some of the partial tag number Curzio obtained. Curzio confirmed that statement. Gurspan also said that it was usual operating procedure for an investigator to not contact a complaintent unless there was movement on a case or an arrest had been made.
Curizo said he was just notified by a family member that the investigators had pulled video footage from the Regions Bank near Watercolor to view the incident, “I understand that they went to the wrong Regions Bank and they have just gotten the footage from the right one.”
Curzio said his family had received calls from other residents that a vehicle matching the alleged attacker had attempted to run other drivers off the road in the south Walton area and he just “wants the guy caught.” Gurspan could not confirm that there had been any other complaints on a driver matching this description.
Curzio said the entire incident has made him lose faith in his local law enforcement. “I have always respected our officers of the law, but quite honestly, right now, I feel like the only thing the sheriff’s office might do for me is give me a ticket. This guy needs to be caught and I’m hoping that telling my story to the newspapers will help that happen.” Curzio said it was his hope that citizens and other media would pick up on his story and help bring the driver to justice, “that’s the only reason I’m speaking out.”
Gurspan said the WCSO would appreciate any information the public could share on the incident, “If anyone has information on the May 7th incident in front of the entrance to the Publix grocery in Watercolor, you are urged to contact the Walton County Sheriff’s Office at 892-8186, or the Crime Stoppers line at 1-866-718-8477.”
The Herald-Beach Breeze will continue to follow this case as it unfolds.
Contact Alicia Leonard at firstname.lastname@example.org.