ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pinellas County deputy has been suspended for speeding and nearly killing a 62-year-old man riding his bike. But the victim says it’s not enough, and he’s now suing the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
On March 22, a simple trip to the grocery store became a brush with death for Steve Greninger.
“It was like slow motion to me,” Greninger recounted. He shattered several bones in the wreck, and remains in a St. Petersburg rehab facility. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, he spoke to 8 On Your Side via Zoom.
Around 9 p.m., Greninger went to cross Gulf to Bay Boulevard in Clearwater at the intersection of Hampton Road. He was at a crosswalk, recalled he did not have the crossing sign, but did not see any cars near and believed he could get across in time.
Next thing he knew, he was on the pavement in severe pain with a sheriff’s deputy by his side.
“I said, ‘I think it’s a hit and run,'” Greninger explained. “And he said, ‘No, it was me.'”
Pinellas County Deputy Jared Toro collided with Greninger while en route to assist a nearby state trooper. 8 On Your Side obtained exclusive dashcam footage showing the March 22 crash, as well as the deputy’s actions both before and after.
In it, you see Deputy Toro swerve and attempt, but fail, to avoid Greninger on the bike. There were no lights or sirens, and as Greninger would later learn, no emergency.
“How fast were you going?” you can hear Greninger ask the deputy on the recording.
“I have no idea,” Toro replied. “You didn’t have any lights, I was trying to get to another call to help a trooper.”
A PCSO crash report showed Toro driving 84 mph prior to the crash on Gulf to Bay, 70 mph on impact. The posted speed limit on that stretch of Gulf to Bay is 45 mph, per the report.
Just minutes before, the recorder in Toro’s SUV clocked him going 103 mph on McMullen Booth Road, more than 50 miles above the posted speed limit.
“I think if anybody else did it, if I did it, I would have spent the night in jail,” said attorney Mark Roman, who is representing Greninger in what is now a negligence lawsuit against Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and his office.
According to an internal PCSO memo obtained by 8 On Your Side, Deputy Toro violated several agency policies that night. The trooper who requested assistance needed chalk to draw a line for a field sobriety test, meaning Toro was speeding sans lights and sirens to a non-urgent call.
The GPS in Toro’s vehicle also showed he was not in Safety Harbor, the city he was assigned to patrol that night, when he responded to the FHP trooper’s call. He had not notified his supervisors he was leaving Safety Harbor and had no agency business outside of his patrol area.
That same memo lists leaving his assigned area without notice as an issue Toro’s supervisors have discussed with him before. However, an agency spokesperson tells 8 On Your Side Toro has never otherwise been disciplined in his roughly two years on the force.
Toro’s disciplinary notice lists five days suspension to termination as the penalty range for such violations of duties and responsibilities. Toro was suspended for 112 hours, the equivalent of 10 shifts, to be served periodically between late October and early December.
Mark Roman says that’s nothing compared to the price his client has had to pay.
“Do you think he should have been fired for this?” asked 8 On Your Side investigative reporter Victoria Price.
“I hate to see anybody lose their job, but Steve Greninger very nearly lost his life,” Roman replied. “And I think being terminated from the force seems to be appropriate for that.”
Greninger says he’s only been able to take a few steps since the wreck. He hopes the lawsuit is a much bigger step in his pursuit of justice.
“This has changed my life almost 100 percent,” Greninger said.
Deputy Toro is not named in the lawsuit Greninger and Roman filed this week, just the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. A PCSO spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, which is standard for pending litigation.
Greninger and Roman are asking a judge to take the case to trial. Florida’s sovereignty immunity law caps the damages state agencies are liable for at $200,000, a figure Roman says barely scratches the service of his client’s medical bills.
If they take the case to trial and win, it creates an opportunity to collect more than $200,000 in damages. Roman estimates Greninger’s medical bills at close to $1 million.
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