Deputies charge 18-year-old in connection with pedestrian fatality

Jamar Gary Johnson

ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies say an 18-year-old Clearwater man struck a pedestrian with his car while trying to avoid a traffic stop by the Violent Crimes Task Force.

Deputies assigned to the sheriff’s Major Accident Investigation Team say the crash occurred about 9:30 p.m. July 18 on Fifth Avenue North at 20th Street North in St. Petersburg.

The pedestrian, identified as 30-year-old Jee-esta Shurock, was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Jamar G. Johnson was charged with one count of vehicular homicide, one count of fleeing & eluding, one count of leaving the scene of a crash with death and one count of leaving the scene of a crash with property damage.

Investigators say prior to the crash, at about 9:24 p.m., a deputy with the Violent Crimes Task Force was driving a marked sheriff’s Chevrolet Tahoe near 44th Street North and Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park when he saw Johnson driving a tan 2007 Nissan Maxima, which was missing a tag light and had a window tint violation.

The deputy activated his emergency equipment and attempted to stop the Maxima; but, according to deputies, the car fled at a high rate of speed.

The deputy then turned off his emergency equipment and did not pursue Johnson, who fled eastbound on Park Boulevard. He did notify undercover VCTF members, who were in the area in unmarked vehicles. VCTF members continued to observe Johnson from a distance, as the Maxima traveled southbound on I-275 at a high rate of speed.

Deputies say Johnson abruptly crossed three lanes of heavy traffic to exit I-275 onto the Fifth Avenue North off-ramp, toward 20th Street North. About the same time, a 2013 Honda Accord being driven Caroline Dewitt, 18, was traveling eastbound on Fifth Avenue North.

Deputies say when Dewitt’s vehicle entered the intersection of 20th Street North, she had the green traffic light. However, Johnson’s Maxima ran the red traffic light and struck the front end of the Accord. The Maxima then spun around and struck Shurock, who was walking eastbound in a crosswalk along the eastbound lanes of Fifth Avenue at 20th Street North.

Johnson then fled the scene on foot. He was apprehended a short time later.

Shurock was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead. Johnson was transported to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries before he was taken to the county jail. Dewitt was uninjured.

The Violent Crimes Task Force is a countywide, multi-jurisdictional task force that focuses on violent crime in Pinellas County. The task force is comprised of law enforcement officers from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Clearwater Police Department.

Deputies say speed does appear to be a factor in this case.