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Lakeland Police Department motorcycle officer Paul Dunn killed in early morning crash

Staff Writer
Walton Sun

LAKELAND — Local law enforcement agencies are mourning the loss of Lakeland Police Department motorcycle officer Paul Dunn, who was killed in an early morning crash Thursday. The death occurred on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

Dunn, 50, was driving his LPD Harley-Davidson Police Road King to work around 5:45 a.m. in the northbound lane of Lakeland Highlands Road, just south of Lake Miriam Drive, when the motorcycle struck and drove over a raised concrete median between the northbound and southbound lanes.

During a press conference Thursday morning, Sheriff Grady Judd noted that Dunn lived just a few miles from the crash scene. Because the fatal accident occurred in unincorporated Polk County, the Sheriff’s Office Traffic Homicide Unit is doing the investigation.

Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia joined Judd at the press conference on Lakeland Highlands Road to provide initial details of the crash.

Judd said that the wife of a PCSO deputy, Madeline Sinclair, was coming over the hill toward the crash scene and saw the motorcycle lights flashing. It wasn’t until she approached closer that she identified that an officer was down. She stopped her vehicle and began to perform CPR, as did a nurse practitioner, Laura Lewis, according to Judd.

Sinclair told detectives that as she drove toward the crash site, another vehicle beside her heading the same direction did not stop and kept driving past the downed bike, Judd noted.

Judd said that the investigation was ongoing, and the Traffic Homicide Unit would leave “no stone unturned.” There are traffic cameras nearby that may prove to be helpful, he said, and any information in the investigation will be released as it becomes available.

While both women tried to save the officer’s life, Polk Fire Rescue and EMS personnel took over and Dunn was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, where he was declared dead at 6:53 a.m., according to crash reports.

Judd said it was not immediately known if another vehicle was involved, and it was too early to theorize as to whether someone either pulled out in front of Dunn or edged over, and to avoid hitting them, he lost control of the Harley.

Garcia said Dunn had served five years with the department, and 12 years prior to that with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Before joining the law enforcement ranks, Dunn served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Garcia said Dunn was the kind of officer that would always “throw up a hand” to help if a need arose.

The department, still grieving from losing police officer Ken Foley just a few weeks ago, had just removed the black shrouds of mourning from their badges, said LPD spokesperson Robin Tillett.

Dunn leaves behind a wife, who is a detective with the Lakeland Police Department, and one adult daughter and two adult sons. Both sons are currently serving in the armed forces, Garcia said. Dunn had been with LPD since 2013.

Judd said that the PCSO is grieving along with LPD, noting it “does not matter” if the uniform is blue or green, “we are family.”

The St. Petersburg Police Department sent a note on the LPD Facebook post of Dunn’s death: “From our LEO family to yours, please know we are saddened by the loss of Motorcycle Officer Paul Dunn and are praying for you during this difficult time. On this Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, we thank Officer Dunn for his service.”

Lakeland City Manager Tony Delgado wrote on the Facebook post, “Our City of Lakeland family is incredibly saddened by the loss of Officer Dunn. Our hearts and thoughts go out to family, friends, coworkers and loved ones ... we cannot fathom the magnitude of their loss and sadness. Rest In Peace Paul.”

Kathy Leigh Berkowitz can be reached at kberkowitz@theledger.com or at 863-802-7558. Follow her on Twitter @kberkowitzthel1.