A Fort Lauderdale police officer accused of vehicular homicide was fired Tuesday for regularly driving more than 100 mph both on and off duty, according to an internal investigation.
Officer Alexander Griss, 23, was fired for violating five departmental policies after an investigationuncovered driving speeds that reached 118 mph on interstates and Broward County roads, the report said. The firing is effective Aug. 20.
Griss is free on bond on a vehicular homicide charge in the June 19 death of Althea Tobias McKay, 39, of Lauderdale Lakes. Authorities say Griss was driving up to 91mph when his police cruiser struck her.
Griss has pleaded not guilty to the charge and the case is tentatively scheduled for trial in late August. Michael Dutko, Griss' attorney, was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department had no comment on the firing.
The department has global positioning system devices in all of its marked police cruisers that record time, location and speed. According to the data pulled from Griss' Ford Crown Victoria in the month preceding McKay's death, he was driving over 90 mph at least 90 times on various roads while on and off duty. Included in that are 15 instances of driving faster than 110 mph, mostly on interstates. He reached 118 mph twice on Interstate 595 and 114 mph once on A1A, where the speed limit is 30 to 35 mph, those records show.
The department fired Griss on charges including conduct unbecoming an officer, failing to drive in a safe manner, losing his license and failing to answer investigators' questions, the internal report said. It said the officer showed "blatant disregard for the Florida State Statutes you are required to obey and sworn to enforce."
GPS data initially pegged Griss as driving 91 mph June 19 in the 1900 block of South Federal Highway, seconds before his cruiser struck McKay, who had stepped off the curb, police said at the time. The impact threw McKay's body 102 feet. Traffic homicide investigators separately calculated Griss was driving at least 79 mph at the time of the impact. That stretch of the road has a 40 mph speed limit.
The report noted that most of the speeding occurred either off-duty or during routine calls. Detective Kathy Collins, spokeswoman for the department, said it does random checks on officers' speeds through the GPS system. She declined to discuss whether the agency did so before McKay's death.
Dutko has called into question the GPS data and the calculations investigators used to determine Griss' speed during the accident.
But similar data has been used successfully in traffic cases for years and withstood challenges on appeal. In 2003, Broward County prosecutors used speed information recorded in a car's "black box" to convict Edwin Matos of manslaughter and vehicular homicide in the death of Jamie Maier, 16, of Davie, and Paige Kupperman, 17, of Miami Lakes. Matos is serving a 30-year prison sentence. McKay's father was pleased Wednesday to hear Griss had been fired.
"I'm very happy. This is a big relief," Renwick Tobias said. "Whatever it takes, we want to see justice done in this case. I'm glad to see that it has finally moved in the right direction." Staff Writer Brittany Wallman contributed to this report.
Brian Haas can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4957.