The last Flagler Beach City Commission meeting on Oct. 10 ended relatively early: it was adjourned at 7:02 p.m.
At 8:14 p.m., Commissioner Rick Belhumeur was on his way home, after a stop for a shot of bourbon and conversation with his son and with City Manager Larry Newsom at Tortugas, the restaurant and bar on State Road A1A. Belhumeur was at the wheel of his 2016 Ford F-150. When, at the intersection of South Central Avenue and South 7th Street, he struck 60-year-old Garey R. Sharpe, who’d been on his bicycle. Sharpe is a long-time resident of South Central.
Sharpe was struck sideways, the collision catapulting him onto the pavement, where he struck his head. Neither the bicycle nor the truck were seriously damaged. Belhumeur says he’d just pulled out of the intersection stop sign where he’d stopped and looked. The intersection is illuminated by by a street light. The bicycle ended up stuck to the front of Belhumeur’s truck by a pedal, and Sharpe was seriously injured.
He was unconscious when authorities arrived at the scene but showed no signs of bleeding. An emergency helicopter was placed on standby, though by 8:45 paramedics had elected to take Sharpe as a trauma alert to Halifax hospital–where he remained as of Friday, according to Belhumeur–by ambulance. Flagler Beach police was at the scene, but turned over the investigation to the sheriff’s office so as to avoid a conflict of interest, since a city commissioner was involved. A sheriff’s deputy arrived at the scene at 8:52 p.m., according to the crash report.
But even though a city commissioner was involved, neither city police nor the city administration issued a statement or notice about the crash, though a few days later City Manager Larry Newsom said he directed his police chief this week to issue a public advisory about cyclists needing to obey the rules of the road.
The crash was one issue. Belhumeur’s description of it to a reporter, when finally asked about it on Friday, became another: asked explicitly if the crash took place as he was returning home from that evening’s city commission meeting, Belhumeur said it had. He did not mention the stop at Tortugas or the shot of bourbon. He conceded that he’d been there only during a second interview, by which time FlaglerLive had learned of his stop at Tortugas and verified it with Newsom, who’d also been at the bar.
“Commissioner Belhumeur had one cocktail, he met with his son, then he left. That was it. That’s all he had,” Newsom said. “The incident itself basically–believe it or not if you look at the public announcement the police chief put out on Tuesday, we have a big concern about cyclists not stopping at stop signs. I asked Matt [Doughney] to put out a public announcement to encourage them that they are vehicles. Cyclists are recognized vehicles and they have to stop at stop signs.” (The Tuesday Facebook traffic tip the police department published refers to a prohibition on motorcyclists, cyclists or motorists wearing headphones.)
Belhumeur–a second-term commissioner who turns 66 Sunday–said he didn’t mention the stop-over “because it’s a non-issue,” he said in the second interview. “Damn, it’s not like I was sitting there for an hour, drinking. I had one shot, walked away from the bar, sat at a table and talked to my boy.” He said his son was going through a rough time and needed some reassuring. “I didn’t stay long, had one shot and left. I don’t know, some kind of bar bourdon, cheap bourbon,” Belhumeur said. “I couldn’t have been there but 20 minutes, if that. I was on my way home, I still had my shirt and tie on. I was totally honest with the officer, he asked me, I told him I had a shot.”
In fact, Belhumeur did not volunteer the information to the deputy, either–not at first, according to the deputy’s body camera. Deputy Jordan Taylor asked him a few questions about the crash, then asked: “Where were you coming from?”
“Commission meeting,” Belhumeur said.
“So you haven’t had anything to drink tonight or anything like that?” the deputy asked him.
“I had one shot on the way home, yeah.” Belhumeur’s answer was without hesitation, but it had been prompted.
“On the way home? Of what?”
“Is that usual for you to take one shot of bourbon on the way home or what?”
Belhumeur said “a lot of times” he stops after commission meetings to talk things over, presumably with the city manager (the audio is not audible at that point).
The deputy asks for his papers. Belhumeur at no point looks or acts impaired. His answers are lucid, his responses to requests immediate. He stands by his truck as the deputy writes notes. The deputy then asks him to stand at the back of the truck for a “basic exercise.”
“You say you had one shot, I mean, I believe you, you’re talking pretty straight, all right, but I’m just going to make sure, all right?” Taylor tells him, holding up a pen in front of the commissioner’s eyes. The deputy conducts the eye test, asking Belhumeur to follow the tip of a pen, back and forth, up and down. Belhumeur does so, passing the test. The deputy turns off the camera moments after that, just as he’s asking Flagler Beach police some questions about the victim.
So the depth of the deputy’s investigation is not clear from the video, and the crash report itself is unusually vague and in parts contradictory and inconclusive. That’s become an issue, because to Belhumeur, the crash report is problematic: he did not get a citation (as drivers deemed at fault generally do if accused of inattention or carelessness), but the report’s narrative does say that Belhumeur himself “stated that he stopped at the stop sign at the intersection and proceeded without looking. [Belhumeur] was inattentive and drove into [Sharpe] who was riding a black in color bicycle, he then backed up thus dragging the bicycle underneath his vehicle.”
“His narrative says I claimed I pulled up to a stop sign and then proceeded without looking.” Belhumeur said. “I don’t want to say it’s a lie, but it’s totally inaccurate.” Belhumeur claims “the guy blew through the stop sign going the wrong way and the wrong lane.” Of the report, he complained, “nothing was said about him being in the wrong lane, nothing was said about him going through the stop sign, and I certainly didn’t say I proceeded without looking.”
The report in one section lists the crash as being head to head, with Belhumeur going 5 mph, but in the drawing of the crash, the deputy had the truck striking the side of the bicycle as it went north. Belhumeur said he was heading west on 7th street (he lives on Flagler Avenue), while the cyclist was, he said, heading north, but in the southbound lane. He says the drawing has the cyclist inaccurately in the right lane of South Central. “In all fairness this really wasn’t my fault,” Belhumeur said. “If it had been a car this would be a whole different story, in the sense that whoever was driving the other vehicle ran through a stop sign and was in the wrong lane. If he’d pulled up to the stop sign and stopped I’d obviously would have seen him. It was directly under a street light. I feel awful about what happened, but jeez, I did everything right in my opinion.”
The crash report marks Sharpe as having taken “no improper action.” Belhumeur was allowed to get back in his truck and go home. The scene was cleared at 9:21 p.m.
The next day at noon, Belhumeur wrote the deputy: “I would like to speak with you about what I feel may be inaccuracies in your narrative and crash scene drawing.” Belhumeur said he did not get a call back, so he called Sheriff Rick Staly.
The call inevitably recalls the call then-School Board member John Fischer placed to then-Sheriff Don Fleming when Fischer’s wife Jamesine struck and killed a pedestrian, Francoise Pecqueur, on a C-Section street in 2012.
But there’s little comparison between the two situations. In the Fischer case, Fleming himself called Fischer three times in the hours following the crash and took three calls from Fischer, raising serious questions about the extent and motive of Fleming’s involvement. In Belhumeur’s case, the sheriff got a message that the commissioner had called and called him back once, to let him know what the process would be. (The two met briefly and coincidentally at a symposium on addiction this morning, where Belhumeur said the sheriff told him he’d seen the video and that the examination into the report would follow its normal course.)
“He did not tell me he had called or tried to email the deputy who investigated it,” Staly said on Friday. “When I walked into my office after a meeting I had a message to call him. I called him, that’s when he told me he disagreed with the investigation and what the deputy wrote in the report. I said well, I’ll have Chief [Chris] Sepe look into your complaint just like we do for any citizen that complains. So Chief Sepe has it, he is going to review the investigation to make sure it was thorough, accurate and fair, he’s going to pull the deputy’s body camera and see if there’s anything there to make sure it’s an accurate report.”
But the sheriff would also expect to be told the full circumstances of the incident. Staly noted that Belhumeur had not told him of the stop-over at Tortugas. “I believe Belhumeur told me he had left the commission meeting and was going home. He didn’t tell me anything of that, but that will be part of Sepe’s review, but I’m sure if we thought he was an impaired driver he would have been arrested, and hopefully that’s all in the body camera.”
A sheriff’s office spokesperson said there was no timeline on the completion of Sepe’s review.
“Perfect, that’s all I expected,” Belhumeur said of the sheriff’s response. “I wasn’t calling to call in favors, I feel like I’m just like a citizen anyway.” He acknowledged leaving the detail of his stop-over out of his conversation with the sheriff. “I wasn’t trying to mislead him either. I wasn’t trying to mislead, but I did leave it out, because I just thought it didn’t have any thing to do with the accident.”
As for Sharpe, Belhumeur said he had not spoken to or visited him at the hospital. “Personally I’d like to but I don’t know the implications one way or the other, to be honest with you,” he said. “I’d love to be able to tell him how sorry I am that it happened and wish him well.”
The available footage from the body camera is below.
CB from PC says
Yesterday, 10/18, while traveling north bound on A1A, 2 or 3 blocks up from Rt. 100 on my motorcycle with my wife, a young woman pulled in front of me onto A1A from a side street.
I luckily avoided a collision by heavy downshift and handbrake.
Luckily pavement was dry and I was doing the posted 35 mph speed limit.
This could have had a bad outcome.
TO THOSE ENTERING FROM A SIDE STREET:
IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO STOP.
YOU MUST CHECK BOTH DIRECTIONS BEFORE PROCEEDING.
REMEMBER, THE LIVES YOU SAVE MAY BE OURS. THE ASSETS YOU SAVE MAY BE YOURS.
Name (required) says
Ya, the locals for some reason, assume the road they’re about to join is clear, they blow 10 feet past the Stop sign and white line everytime. Suggest Heavily covering the brake when cruising through Flagler /Palm Coast on any thoroughfare. Nobody’s paying ANY attention to much of anything it seems.
I know, a lot of stop signs REQUIRE that you pull well past the white line in order to be able to see any oncoming traffic whatsoever due to the tax payer funded overgrowth.
True, but not at that intersection. 🤔
Concerned Citizen says
Well it won’t matter anyway.
Regardless of what level a Commisioner serves in this area they are above the law. They can do no wrong and are never held responsible for their actions. There’s quite an extensive list of incidents now when you look at the BOCC in Flagler Beach. All well documented and on public record. Some was even on video. However when I brought it up Commisioner Belhumeur stated “It was unsubstantiated” I guess video recordings and public records of law suits are inadmissable.
If alcohol was a factor along with irresponsible driving Belhumeurneeds to be held accountable just like we would. And if he lied to a Law Enforcement officer then he needs to be held responsible also. But he won’t be because this is Flagler County and the goold ol boy network looks after it’s own.
Shelby Jean says
I fully agree!!
Concerned Citizen says
I would also like to know why the Deputy turned off his body camera at a certain point. Isn’t the point of a body camera to protect the officer and the integrity of an investigation? Why are they allowed to cut them off at will?
Something stinks about that also.
As I read it, he turned it off while asking about the patient, could be HIPA related. I’ll have to go back and reread that part to verify it though.
While I was not there and have no idea what really happened, I do believe vagueness and or lying about one part of what happened,would definately make me think that there is more vagueness/ lying going on.I hope the bicyclist will be O-K and either belhumeur or his insurance pays the bicyclists medical bills
Double standards, surprise. No breath test, he is avoiding eye contact, every time he is ask a question,and FHP not called in. Gotta love ole Flagler County
Bicyclists most often do not heed stop signs, lack reflective gear and headlights. Deadly combination with inattentive traffic, especially in dark or rainy weather.. Sad…avoidable…
I agree , but in this case in the photo you can see Mr sharp’s bicycle light is on and you can see the reflectors , this should have never of happened.
Lance Carroll says
Seems like Rick Belhumer should stop at STOP signs like the rest of us. I have witnessed Rick Belhumer run STOP signs several times, along with Flagler Police. Hope Mr. Sharpe recovers well. Maybe another STOP sign campaign issued by Flagler Beach Police should be implemented? I have also witnessed Mr. Sharpe ride his bicycle along Central Ave for several decades… he pedals his bicycle at a safe and reasonable rate. I have crossed this intersection thousands of times…as well as many other intersections in Flagler Beach. Fred Belhumer runs Stop signs!
As a LEO who is also experienced in field sobriety exercises this video is very troublesome. If the officer is going to perform field sobriety exercises then he should NOT do it in the way this officer did. The HGN exercise was conducted poorly in a bad location and there were no other exercises conducted as required. Then suddenly after the driver admits to drinking with great bodily injury to a bicyclist, the officer turns off his body camera……I pray the injured gets an attorney as they sue the sheriffs office. This is a cover up plain and simple.
FCSO DROPPED THE BALL ON THIS! This is a case involving a possible Traffic Homicide Investigation and to dispell any and all rumors and allegations involving FCSO, this shouldve been referred to FHP especially since thats their area expertise
According to 911 notes, FHP was notified at 8:26 p.m. and said “will call back with ETA if they can work it.” At 8:37 p.m., “FHP cancelled.” Sheriff referred to FHP during FlaglerLive interview: “FHP was unable to respond, no surprise there, and so that’s how our deputies worked it.”
That happens. Sometimes FHP is tied up on other traffic incidents and either can’t respond or it’s a delayed response. Sheriff says “no surprise there” as to throw FHP under the bus. Perhaps the sheriffs office, once it was established FHP could not respond, should have had a deputy with a little more experience in traffic crashes handle this incident due to the nature of the circumstances and the serious injury involved. Dont we have an expanded Traffic Unit in the sheriffs office that was well touted at the implementation of the Mustangs? I’d like to know just how many crashes FHP helps our Sheriffs Office with. It’s more than we know and our Sheriff should be a little more appreciative or start sending deputies to THI school.
Thanks FHP for responding to crashes in our county and keeping deputies free to handle other issues that arise. Please excuse our Sheriff.
Yes, they can be tied up but a revised ETA should have been scheduled. This could be a possible death situation that warrants a full investigation as it would have been done with any other civilian. He got to go home and given a mediocre sobriety test without walking the line nor the leg lifts. He avoided eye contact at cost and while his speech was not slurred, it wasn’t perfect either. He clearly made every effort to keep his distance to avoid getting alcohol sniffed by the deputy and the deputy made no attempt to get within range to see if the wreak of bourbon was from one drink or ten. And, as mentioned in another comment, that bodycam should have been kept on the whole time as anything could have happened right after it was turned off.
I would never have received that preferential treatment and neither would have any other civilian even if no injuries were involved, in this case, it was. They could verify the number of drinks he had from video at the bar. Who meets for 15mins (“if that”) when a son is going through issues? Law enforcement knows how to get the truth. Whether they do will be a question of protecting the drunk or not.
Bottom line, he arrived at a STOP sign and while choosing not to clear his proceeding with a full stop, he caused the accident after stopping for alcohol consumption but not the traffic device. Could this be more wrong and even more an injustice to not hold him accountable for his wrongdoing?
Revised ETA? Depends on what they may have been working. Troopers assigned to this area work more than one county.
Lmao, you know very well that if it was the commissioner or his son that got hit by a truck that clearly neglected the STOP sign, FHP would have made sure that scene was attended to. Let’s not kid ourselves with nonsense gullibility nor that we are naïve. FHP was either called off or made to believe that this was not something that needed their attention. Too much was amiss here and everyone knows for sure that if he was not the commissioner, things would have been handled far differently and above it all, claimed to have had only “one” drink like isn’t that what they all say.
Concerned Citizen says
Commissioner Belhumeur has been seen running stop signs on a daily basis all around town, in his pickup truck and on his motorcycle. It’s apparent we have a bunch of drunks running the City of Flagler Beach. Word on the street is this is common practice for city officials to meet, drink, talk about city issues, then drive home. Hmmmm……I hope the cyclist recovers from his injuries.
Outside looking in says
So a city commissioner and the city manager regularly meet at a bar after commission meetings to “discuss things”as well as regularly having “a shot of bourbon.” This is what I read from this article. If my child was having issues and I met with him to help I am pretty sure that it would have been more than a quick 20 minutes. Hopefully the investigation will reveal what really happened here. Although it is hard to see from the picture posted it does not look like the commissioners truck is in line with the street heading west. I will patiently wait for a full review and investigation of what happened.
Here comes the preferential treatment. That appears to be a four way STOP sign intersection so the commissioner is at fault. The bike rider may have already stopped and proceeded when the commissioner blew through the stop. No citation issued and we all know why. Anyone else would have received at minimum, two citations and of course, he gets none. 🤔😒
Please Sheriff Staly NO selective law enforcement. I believe that if would have been anyone else would have been invited to the sheriff office for further questioning after having a shot of bourbon driving back home and hitting/hurting a cyclist bad enough to be transported to Halifax by EVAC. Why questioning the investigating officer, as I consider was even mighty good with him given the seriousness of the accident?
Concerned Citizen says
Stopping at a Bar after a meeting and have one shot of Bourbon, after spending one hour there? It’s Like the old saying on Lays potato chips ” You just can’ have one”. Just saying.
Marty Barrett says
It certainly is fair to parse whether or not a crime (namely, DUI) was committed here, very likely the answer is no. But it is equally as fair to question the judgment of a public official who decides to drive after doing a shot of bourbon at a local bar. We should expect more
Jim Bob says
If one “shot” of any alcoholic beverage were the limit, the entire hospitality industry of Flagler Beach would shrivel up and die. In some places any accident involving injury requires an intoximeter or blood test inquiry. Not here, obviously.
Happening now says
Something about sunshine laws?
Beach Guy says
Is there any surveillance from Tortugas that would validate his 1 shot and 20 minutes inside the establishment? Or, surveillance from neighboring homes or businesses that would show the intersection?
Right, what was the time line from when the official meeting ended to the meeting at Tortugas and the time he ran the guy over? Not difficult to piece together.
Btw, who’s paying for the bourbon? I’d like to have an expense account that allows for drinks too.
Another disgusting show of how corrupt sheriffs office is and how they try to protect a city official even after they admitted to drinking and driving. Any one else would be arrested. So much for fixing tour8 trust with the public.
I’m not sure what the controversy is supposed to be here, or what details merit suggestions that he’s getting special treatment.
He has a clear legal right to challenge the cop’s version of what happened if he disagrees with their assessment. He doesn’t need to go running to the media to talk about traumatic events that he’s probably still working through in his mind; in fact, any lawyer would tell him to tell you guys nothing at all. The cops aren’t suggesting he was impaired and he doesn’t seem even remotely seem impaired. There is no suggestion that the driver ran through a stop sign. (It would be a very different accident if he had.) It’s a little bizarre that the police officer decided to turn off his body camera. (Really, what is the point of having these if officers are turning them off and on as they choose? The only reason cops have to wear these is because there is public consensus police need to be held accountable for following procedures and making accurate reports.) And then the police officer put in his report that the commissioner told the officer that he was not paying attention when driving into an intersection. That does seem a pretty implausible thing to for anyone to say to a cop, let alone someone who was just involved in a serious accident.
For all anyone knows here, the cyclist could have been the one impaired. No one even asked that question before jumping to conclusions about the commissioner – what is the other side of the story? As far as I can tell, the main lesson of this article is that private citizens should invest in their own dashboard cameras so there’s more evidence to be considered if something happens to them.
It is horrible for anyone to get seriously injured on the roads here. But Flagler Beach is a free-for-all in the evenings, and everyone knows that. We get kicked out of restaurants there after the dinner rush because we usually have our daughter with us, and everything on that strip turns into a bar at night. Pedestrians and cyclists are constantly darting out in front of cars, and most of them are plastered.
When we were having dinner at a Flagler Beach restaurant recently, one woman walked right out into traffic and then collapsed in the middle of the road because she was too drunk and/or high to walk across the street. The restaurant had to call the Fire Department to put her onto a stretcher and get her out the road, and she fought them the entire time with drunken punches and vile comments, as locals started directing traffic around her. As far as I can tell, there was no accountability for the restaurant for helping put her in that position and (judging from the nearby conversation between the server and her boyfriend) the woman is a local who does this all the time. Drivers are not the only ones responsible for their decision-making.
Ally Kay says
It’s much worse than incompetence my friends. Refer to Florida Statute Section 316.1933(1)(a) mandates that a police officer “shall” require a driver to submit to a blood test, by reasonable force if necessary, if the officer has probable cause to believe that a motor vehicle driven by or in the actual control of a person under the influence of alcoholic beverages has caused the death or serious bodily injury of a human being. Major balls to then ask for special treatment in changing the accident report after receiving the break of a lifetime! Law enforcement needs to contact governor immediately to save face in this incident before somebody else does!
Concerned Citizen says
Whether it’s one shot or two it’s drinking or driving. Whether you’re Commisioner (Who should doubly know better and is held to higher standards) or a private citizen you should be held accountable.
As a young Deputy many years ago I had a fiance who was a nurse at our local hospital killed by a Drunk Driver. She was on the way hone and never made it. As I made the change over to Fire Rescue 6 years later and ended up retiring I saw the end results of DUI and “just one” drink weekly. Therefor as judgemental as it sounds I have zero tolerance for DUI.
DUI whether you’re legally drunk or “had just one” is a choice and a poor one. It’s not a mistake. There’s zero excuse for it. Then there is the inexcusable action of the Deputy letting him drive home after striking someone. And to compound it all an improper field sobriety test.
You skated thru this one by the grace of the goold ol boy system and you know it. I can only hope the victim gets a really good lawyer and takes you for everything you have.
I no longer have faith in our leadership (elected or appointed) in this county. They will either beat you up,slander you or run over you and get away with it. And our LEO’s will cover it up like as usual.
Neil Roberts says
I am not going to pass judgement. It does not look real good for Belheumer based on the info in the article and anyone else would have been treated as a DUI. However, there is a big problem with cyclists running stop signs as I see it all the time here in FB. I have also seen many cyclists riding down Daytona Ave at night with no lights or reflective material. I am surprised this sort of thing does not happen on a regular basis.
Joseph Woodward says
Yes, bikes are vehicles and should (must?) obey traffic laws. Sure, stop at stop signs, redlights, and as required elsewhere.
Meanwhile, again, they are vehicles and should (must?) be used in the proper travel lane. Too often I have seen and been blindsided by bikes heading north on the south bound lane, east in west, south in north and west in east.
Yield, merge, speed limits, etc apply, too.
Tricycles, bicycles, and unicycles, all are vehicles and the riders are subject to the laws that apply to vehicles on our roadways.
All vehicle drivers must obey all traffic laws and be watchful for all other vehicles.
I am NOT saying who is at fault BUT Why is everyone after the driver of the truck only?? IMO is it not just as reasonable the the bike rider could be at fault? Also no mention if the bike had working LIGHTS while at use at night. Most bike riders seem to see the laws of the road as something they dont need to follow.
That’s because where in the intersection the biker got hit, it is evident he cleared his stop sign and was crossing through the middle of the path of the commissioner when he clearly ran his STOP sign and nailed the biker. Look at how well the scene is illuminated and any driver approaching a stop sign in a superbly illuminated intersection who’s mind is tuned to checking before proceeding, this flagrant altercation would not have occurred. So, regardless if the biker ran through his stop sign, he did so far before the commissioner blew through his stop sign. Add the bourbon, well, you know.
Can we have the results of the breathalyzer test? I mean I’m sure since the man who hit a guy admitted to drinking at the bar, he would be given a breathalyzer test, yes?.
Concerned at the beach says
More caution is needed by bicycle riders.MOST do not observe the rules of the road. See it everyday. As far as our Mr. Belheumer??? Mr. Mayor wannabe.
Allie Newman says
At a minimum anyone else would have been told to park the vehicle and walk or take taxi. It’s hard to understand how driving 5 mph can throw the biker.
Another day in Flagler Beach?
I heard that Belhumeur wants to ban golf carts in Flagler Beach. Maybe he should rethink that position and get one for himself.
Concerned Citizen says
Why are people defending a Commisioner who was drinking and driving? Regardless of “just one” or 5. Regardless of drunk or not he was drinking and driving. Is this excusable behavior?
I guess so in good ol Flagler Beach. Commisioners beat their girl friends. and slander rape victims. I suppose it’s nothing to run over people.
This is a simple case of the local police protecting a ranked official. This is corruption, plain and simple. What’s sad is the people of this county are so used to seeing it, it doesn’t even outrage them.
Advertisements says don’t drink and drive. The guy said he had a shot & drove. He had a shot and drove. Look at the results. I think he ran the stop sign. Another person hurt because of the truck driver’s action. I sure hope the other person will be O. K. Who will pay for the cyclist med. bill. The city of Flag. Beach, the man driving the truck or the cyclist? Can anybody answer that question. Thanks.