Police: Speed Approached 100 MPH Before Fatal Crash

As Lakeland police continue investing a Memorial Boulevard crash that killed two people, including a woman returning home from work, they released video taken from the dashboard of an officer who was following the driver who caused the accident.

Cleon Truedell, 32, of Plant City, sped away from LPD Officer Jim Simon and was driving his 2000 Cadillac at speeds nearing 100 mph before he ran a red light and crashed into a 2017 Mitsubishi sedan driven by Linel Marie Vega-Ortiz, 38, police said. Both drivers died.

The video, just over a minute long, starts with Truedell backing his Cadillac out of a driveway on Tropical Way near Memorial Boulevard around 12:38 a.m. June 5. Simon follows him onto Memorial, and an explosion is seen when the cars crash at Memorial and Lakeshore Drive.

“The Lakeland Police Department continues to review evidence and seek additional witness statements to help explain why Cleon Nathaniel Truedell intentionally backed his vehicle toward the marked police vehicle and then began to flee in a reckless manner,” police said in a news release.

Truedell’s driver license has been revoked since 2005, and his car contained “a trafficking amount of suspected methamphetamine,” police said.

Police say the incident started when Officer Simon saw the Cadillac commit an unnamed minor traffic violation. They also claim the officer smelled marijuana as the Cadillac passed. The Cadillac almost hit Simon’s vehicle as it pulled out of a driveway after Simon tried to get tag information, and Simon followed, police said.

The family of Vega-Ortiz told Fox 13 News last week they question whether the officer’s actions in following Truedell complied with department pursuit policy.

Police say their investigation is focused on what Truedell had been doing earlier that “might explain his actions that caused this tragic event. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact LPD Traffic Investigations at 834-6900.”

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