Lakeland family still looking for answers in fatal crash

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Video released from the Lakeland Police department shows a  2000 Cadillac sedan make an erratic move in front of officer Jim Simon.

In a report, Simon wrote he started to pull the car over for a minor traffic violation but could also smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from the car. The Cadillac, driven by Cleon Trudell speeds away.

At the intersection of Memorial Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive, Trudell collided with a car driven by Linel Marie Vega-Ortiz. Vega-Ortiz died at the scene, Trudell died a short time later at a local hospital.

Lakeland Police say Officer Simon was not in pursuit because he never activated his police lights, although the video clearly shows the officer following Trudell at a high rate of speed.

Police say Truedell was driving with a revoked driver’s license and was also driving with what police say was a “trafficking amount of suspected methamphetamine.”

Linda Ortiz watched the police video on Wednesday and is having a difficult time understanding why the Lakeland Police office didn’t stop following Trudell when it became dangerous.”The only thing that I know is that I lost my daughter. They know they can stop chasing the person and use the helicopter,” said Linda Ortiz.

Assistant Lakeland Police Chief Sam Taylor says the incident is still under investigation.

“It’s certainly a tragedy. It’s a tragedy on all accounts. We feel bad for the young lady. She was certainly an innocent victim minding her own business,” said Taylor.

He was not willing to say if Simon was involved in a chase or not, “We are still in the process of reviewing these actions what if anything occurred in getting the facts of the case. I’m not making any determination or any statement that it was a pursuit or was not a pursuit,” said Taylor.

For Linda Ortiz, that explanation isn’t good enough.

“Maybe they are trying to work out in the video to try and demonstrate that they are not responsible for the chasing,” said Ortiz.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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