Deputies have identified the driver who ran over a gopher tortoise in Dunedin as a school crossing guard, and they now say the incident was accidental.
Last week, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance video of a car running over a protected tortoise outside the San Jose Elementary School on San Helen Drive.
On Monday, deputies announced the driver turned himself in after seeing the video on TV. He told investigators he is a school crossing guard for San Jose Elementary and has been employed by the sheriff’s office for about three weeks.
According to the man, he and his wife drove to the school on Saturday, Aug. 11 to confirm the school’s start and end times. The sheriff’s office says the driver explained he drove into the school’s bus circle and stopped to see the start times on the marquis sign. He says he continued to drive forward but was still looking back at the sign when he ran something over.
He told deputies he didn’t see the tortoise until after, when he looked into his rearview mirror and saw the animal.
A concerned citizen later saw the badly-injured tortoise and reported it. The Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife responded to take care of the tortoise, but it later died.
The sheriff’s office concluded that the tortoise’s death was accidental. They say no crime was committed and the case is being closed.