Saturday, January 28, 2023

Wilmington police officer distracted by mobile device rear-ends vehicle, Internal Affairs reviewing crash

The Wilmington Police Officer crashed into a stopped vehicle at over 30 miles per hour. According to an incident report, he was distracted by his vehicle’s onboard computer.

A Wilmington Police Department officer crashed into another vehicle on South College Road. (Port City Daily photo / File)
A Wilmington Police Department officer crashed into another vehicle on South College Road. (Port City Daily photo / File)

WILMINGTON — The Internal Affairs Unit of the Wilmington Police Department is reviewing an accident involving an officer who failed to stop in time because he was distracted by using the computer in his vehicle.

The accident occurred on Tuesday, Jan. 15, on South College Road near the intersection of New Centre Drive during rush hour traffic, around 5 p.m. According to the incident report, WPD Officer Nicholaus R. Kuzian was driving southbound when he struck a vehicle stopped at a red light; total damage was about $5,500 according to an estimate the report.

According to the officer who responded to the crash, “I spoke to driver 1, Officer R. Kuzian, whom stated he was operating vehicle 1 traveling south on S. College Rd. He stated he was traveling approximately 35 mph when he looked at his Mobile Data Terminal (MDT). Driver 1 stated he looked up and traffic was stopped and hit the rear of vehicle 2.”

The incident report notes that Kuzian was barely able to slow down and struck the vehicle at the red light at about 32 miles per hour.

Kuzian reported injuring his right leg; his vehicle sustained considerable front-end damage and was towed to the New Hanover County Government Center. According to WPD, the vehicle sustained $3,500 in damage.

The responding officer found that Kuzian “failed to reduce speed in order to avoid a collision” and was “driving distracted.”

The car Kuzian struck sustained only minor damage, about $2,000 according to the incident report, and the driver reported no injuries before driving to his destination.

No record of the crash, at first

The Wilmington Police Department (WPD) initially said it had no knowledge of the crash; the department didn’t deny there had been an incident, but had no available information.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, WPD Spokesperson Linda Thompson said there was nothing “in the system” about the crash, although several eye-witnesses reported to Port City Daily that both police and fire units had been on the scene.

Later that day, Wilmington Fire Department (WFD) Spokesperson Natosha Vincent said that any information about the accident would have to come from WPD. Vincent did not immediately answer a follow-up asking who, if anyone, would have records of the crash, since WPD had nothing on record.

When asked again the following week, on Tuesday, Jan. 22, Vincent forwarded the request to the Fire Chiefs and ultimately supplied a WFD report indicating a two-car motor vehicle accident on South College at around 5 p.m., but no other details.

Finally, on Thursday the police incident report was posted to the department’s online server. According to Thompson this process can take up to five days to be loaded into the system.

Asked why communication staff didn’t know about the incident, Thompson  said, “There was no need to contact our staff. Nothing specific about the accident to require notifying communication staff. However information is available if we need it.”

Thomspon also stated that, as is protocol for all officer-involved crashes, the department’s Internal Affairs Unit is reviewing the incident.

Port City Daily submitted a public record request to determine Kuzian’s employment history and status, as well as whether Kuzian had been issued a moving violation and if he was still driving a city-owned vehicle. The WPD human resources department has not yet responded.

The crash report is below. Although crash reports a public documents, they do contain personal information about those involved. This report has been redacted to remove the information of the driver who was rear-ended.

WPD Officer Crash – Jan 15 … by on Scribd

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

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