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Veteran police officer recalls accident that left him thinking his life was over

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By Becky Barnes

Veteran police officer Jeremy Walker is still looking for closure 20 months after he was injured in the line of duty.

Blessing or curse, Walker never lost consciousness on April 21, 2006, after he was struck by a truck on I-75 while trying to move speed/stop sticks from the roadway. He remembers everything ... from the screeching tires to the blood streaming from his ears soaking into the collar of his Boone County Sheriff?s uniform.

?It was the only time in my life that I really thought I was gonna die,? Walker said, adding that he asked, ?Was taking my kids to school the last time I was going to see them? Is that the last time I?m going to see Nancy? It?s incredible when you realize the reality.?

On Dec. 5, Gray McQuarrie, 22, an amateur race car driver was sentenced to seven years in prison after he arrived in court two and one-half hours late. He was also tacked with a six-year license suspension, which runs concurrent with his prison sentence.

The sentence wasn?t what Walker had hoped for.

The injuries the former Cynthiana police officer received are a life sentence of hearing loss and no sense of smell, which also make it impossible for him to continue a career he loved.

?It?s tough to get plucked out,? Walker said. ?I wasn?t event thinking of retiring. What do I do for the next 30 years? I had a plan.?

That plan included his law enforcement career, protecting and serving the public and backing up his fellow officers when needed.

That?s exactly what he was doing on April 21, 2006.

It was 9:45 a.m. when Walker heard Florence dispatch announce a pursuit on I-75 in the southbound lane with speeds nearing 140 miles per hour.

Walker was about 15 miles away in the northbound lane. He knew he didn?t have time to ?flip,? or turn around into the southbound lane. So he eased his cruiser to the inside emergency lane. He climbed out of his cruiser and sat on the barrier wall with the stop sticks in his lap.

He said he could see McQuarrie headed toward him in the slow lane. However, just before McQuarrie got to where Walker was perched, he merged across traffic into the fast lane.

Walker jumped down and threw the sticks in the path of McQuarrie?s Honda S2000. He ran over them, but according to Walker, the car was going so fast that the sticks jumped up and imbedded into the front bumper. The bumper was damaged but the tires were unaffected.

One of the sets remained on the interstate. Walker was waiting on traffic and the driver of a pickup truck saw what was going on and stopped to let Walker retrieve the sticks.

He said just as he bent down to get the sticks, he heard squealing tires and then he was hit.

?I said ?I?ll just lay here until help comes?,? Walker remembers telling himself. ?Nah, I gotta get up before I get hit again.?

At this point, Florence dispatch thought Walker was fine and knew nothing of him being catapulted into the concrete barrier. Unfortunately, his radio was knocked off his uniform and out of his reach.

Walker got himself out of the traveled portion of the interstate.

?Then I got nervous,? Walker said, recognizing that he was losing a lot of blood from his ears, his arm was broken, his thumb was broken, his ankle was broken and he had no contact with dispatch.

He said a woman approached but was so traumatized he couldn?t get her to understand that he needed to use her cell phone to call for help.

That?s when he saw a familiar face with a hand-held radio to his mouth. A state undercover detective was calling for help.

There was temporary relief.

?All of this was going on and they were still chasing this nut,? Walker said.

McQuarrie was traveling with a group of amateur racers who were headed to an illegal road race in North Carolina known as the DragonBall Run. His girlfriend was in the car with him.

Walker said police caught up with the pair after they took the next exit after the stop sticks and parked their car behind a barn. They then went door-to-door seeking directions at one residence and telling another they had car trouble.

McQuarrie had a history of traffic violations. His girlfriend told police that he had even outrun police in Ohio two weeks prior and that he was driving on a suspended license.

Although McQuarrie did not hit Walker, the former police officer said McQuarrie created the situation.

He was indicted on felony charges including first degree assault, as well as traffic infractions. The felony charge would have prevented McQuarrie from getting parole until he had served 85 percent of the sentence.

However, Walker was informed that the case would be dealt with in mediation, which knocked out the chances of McQuarrie serving 85 percent of any sentence. What he got was seven years in Kentucky State Reformatory.

Walker said he can be out in 15 months.

Disappointed in the outcome of the criminal case, Walker said it was further compounded by the fact that McQuarrie?s attorney, Deanna Dennison, said that her client was remorseful.

?While he was out on bond, he had at least three moving violations and a traffic accident, then to say he?s remorseful? Well, bless his heart,? Walker said. ?I?m laying in the hospital with nearly every limb in a cast.?

During the mediation, Walker was able to confront McQuarrie. Walker said McQuarrie attempted to apologize for his actions.

?I don?t believe anything that comes out of your mouth,? Walker told McQuarrie, noting that six weeks after the accident, McQuarrie was allegedly racing again. ?Then, he tries to blame [the incident] on me? His attorney said I ?darted? into traffic. I don?t ?dart.??

Walker said he believes the long delay in getting the case adjudicated led to the lesser sentence. He suspected that had the case been heard while the outrage of it was still fresh in the people?s minds, it definitely would not have wound up in a mediation situation.

?I?ve been in murder trials that were adjudicated in less time,? Walker said of the 20 months that lapsed in the court system.

Now, not only is McQuarrie eligible to request parole in 15 months, he can also request shock probation, which would put him back on the streets.

Walker said he?ll fight every request McQuarrie makes through the court system.

Walker may not be able to return to work, but nothing is going to stop him from lobbying to keep McQuarrie off the road and behind bars.