State Attorney Stalls on Hit-and-Run

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Dave Aronberg (above left), the State Attorney for Palm Beach County is stalling on a hit-and-run case involving alleged driver Brett Knowles (right, 30) of Boca Isles North. We spoke with Natalie Cruz and Mike Edmonson from Aronberg’s office. So far they have refused to provide any documents or answer any substantive questions about the case.
Back in September there was a serious car accident on 441 in front of West Boca Medical Center (across from Target) where three pedestrians were hit by a driver who then fled the scene. We reported on the accident at the time and followed up in October regarding the fact that the alleged driver had not been charged yet.
After 60 days the Sheriff sent us a copy of the crash report, which is at the bottom of this article. One brief excerpt from it is below:
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The Sheriff also provided a narrative from one of deputies or investigators. The full narrative is at bottom, but here are some key excerpts:

Upon arrival to XXXXX Preserve Drive. I observed a Brown Nissan Murano with major front end damage baring FL tag XXXXXX to be properly parked in the driveway of the above listed residence. The vehicle damage appeared to be consistent with injuries sustained by the victims. The hood had sustained major damage in the center and had a direct impact point crack in the windshield that was consistent with the size of the victims head …
While at the residence, Brett began to make excited utterance statements to me stating that “he was going to come back, and he just wanted to tell his parents what he did.” He then made another statement to me stating that “he was driving the vehicle and he wants to know if everyone is alive and ok.” These statements were all made without any questions being asked. …
Based on the aforementioned to include the utterance and unprovoked admissions made by Brett Knowles, witness statements, severity of injuries and evidence left at the scene of the crash, probable cause exists that Knowles was the driver … at the time of the crash. Knowles is therefore being charged with three counts of leaving the scene of a traffic crash with injuries …. It should be noted that two of the pedestrians … had sustained serious bodily injuries each as a result of the collision. Knowles is also being charged with one count for driving with a suspended license with knowledge ….
This case will be forwarded to the Palm Beach County State’s Attorneys Office for further review.

In short it appears that the Sheriff provided sufficient evidence for the State Attorney to go forward with prosecution. But no charges have been filed yet well over two months later.
We previously pointed out that Mr. Knowles has a substantial history in the courts with over 40 cases including multiple charges for driving with a suspended license. The State Attorney and Sheriff have allowed his repeat offenses to be filed as first offenses, reducing the consequences Mr. Knowles would have faced. Aronberg’s spokesman, Edmonson, refused to comment on that.
Edmonson and Cruz refused to provide us with any documents from the case claiming that it’s “an active investigation”, which is an exception to Florida’s Sunshine Laws. This struck us as odd since it appears PBSO completed its investigation well over a month before our conversation, but they stood by that refusal.
We also previously covered Mr. Knowles joking about “leaving the scene” on Facebook:
knowles-gecko
That is something prosecutors could potentially use as a further admission.
Shortly after making that joke, Mr. Knowles was yet again ticketed on October 23rd for driving with a suspended license. Yet again it was not treated as a repeat offense. And as we see so frequently, the prosecutors dropped the charges.
It should be apparent to our readers that Mr. Knowles likely continues to drive on our roads. State Attorney Aronberg appears unconcerned about the threat that poses to the residents of West Boca and the rest of the county and South Florida.
We contacted the State Attorney again today to see if they have any further comment. So far we have received no response.


Crash report:
[gview file=”http://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/14121902-Crash-Report.pdf”]
PBSO Narrative:

I responded to the residence of 19424 Preserve Drive in unincorporated Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, Florida in regards an investigation involving a hit and run traffic crash with injuries. I was notified by Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office dispatch that they received a 911 phone call from witness, later identified as XXXXXX stating a Nissan Murano baring Florida tag “941VJN” had hit three pedestrians on the side of the roadway. This incident occurred in the area of 21644 South State Road 7, which is located just south of Glades Road. It was discovered that the vehicle that was seen leaving the crash scene had a registration address of 19424 Preserve Drive. Boca Raton, FL. 33498.
Upon arrival to 19424 Preserve Drive. I observed a Brown Nissan Murano with major front end damage baring FL tag “941VJN” to be properly parked in the driveway of the above listed residence. The vehicle damage appeared to be consistent with injuries sustained by the victims. The hood had sustained major damage in the center and had a direct impact point crack in the windshield that was consistent with the size of the victims head, showing were the victim Victor Carneiro Brito’s head was struck. While outside the residence, I could hear three subjects arguing while walking exiting the front door of the residence. When I walked over to the front door, I observed a white male later identified as Brett Knowles to be wearing a white tee shirt with shorts and no shoes arguing with his mother. Knowles was identified verbally, and was not the registered owner of the vehicle.
While at the residence, Brett began to make excited utterance statements to me stating that “he was going to come back, and he just wanted to tell his parents what he did.” He then made another statement to me stating that “he was driving the vehicle and he wants to know if everyone is alive and ok.” These statements were all made without any questions being asked. I detained Brett by placing him into handcuffs which were checked for proper fitting and double locked. Photographs of the scene were taken by Investigator Robert Stephan (ID 7240) of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Vehicle Homicide Investigations Unit. The crash investigation report was conducted by Deputy Sheriff Terry Drake (ID 5310) of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
I then read Brett his Miranda warnings which he understood but did not want to talk to me. After conducting my investigation at the residence Brett was taken out of hand cuffs and release on scene.
Sworn written statements were also provided by witnesses to include, XXXXXXXX. XXXXXXX had observed the traffic crash in front of her and observed the Nissan/ Morano leave the scene. XXXXXXXX called 911 and provided PBSO dispatch with pertinent information to include the vehicle make, model and tag. See sworn statement for further.
On September 30, 2014, Investigator Ken Noel (ID 7660) of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office DUI Enforcement Unit and I met with Marco Barreto, who was one of three victims from the hit and run traffic crash. While at Marco’s residence, with his mother present, a taped and a written statement were provided about what had happened on the night of September 19, 2014. Marco told me that he was skateboarding to the Shadowood Movie Plaza located at Glades Road and State Road 7 with two other friends Daniel Palmer and Victor Carneiro Brito. He said they were traveling from SW 3rd Street heading north on State Road 7, in unincorporated Boca Raton, Florida. He then said they were just about north of Palmetto Park Road when they decided to walk the rest of the way. Marco told me that while they were walking he heard tires screeching, and when he looked backwards he saw really bright headlights. He then stated that he was then struck by the vehicle and was impacted so hard he went flying in the air and landed on his back in about the middle lane of State Road 7. During the interview, Marco stated that as a result of the crash he had a broken right femur, broken nose, broken right ring finger, and multiple road rash injuries on his entire body. Finally Marco ended the interview by saying that due to this incident his dreams of joining the United States Army have been dismantled. Due to the traumatic injuries he sustained, Marco will no longer be able to join the military. Attempts to interview Brito and Palmer were made on several attempts; however, yielded with negative results.
Based on the aforementioned to include the utterance and unprovoked admissions made by Brett Knowles, witness statements, severity of injuries and evidence left at the scene of the crash, probable cause exists that Knowles was the driver of the Nissan/ Murano at the time of the crash. Knowles is therefore being charged with three counts of leaving the scene of a traffic crash with injuries F.S.S. 316.027(1)(A). It should be noted that two of the pedestrians, Barreto and Brito had sustained serious bodily injuries each as a result of the collision. Knowles is also being charged with one count for driving with a suspended license with knowledge F.S.S. 322.34(2). This case will be forwarded to the Palm Beach County State’s Attorneys Office for further review.

Accident Follow-Up: Hit-and-Run Driver Not Charged Yet?

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Last month we reported on an accident where three pedestrians were hit by a car on 441, northbound near West Boca Medical center.
We’ve been trying to follow up on this case but PBSO was not helpful initially. Over a month later we finally got a few records. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to give us a lead so we could find out more.
For starters we’ve learned the names of the individuals involved in the accident. One of the pedestrians hit was Victor Carneiro Brito, who is 18 years old and reportedly lives in the Boca Entrada apartments. The other two pedestrians, both male, are under 18 so we are not including their names in this story. One is a student in one of the middle schools in West Boca.
We’ve also learned that the alleged driver is Brett Knowles (30), of Boca Isles. Mr. Knowles appears to be a 2002 graduate of Olympic Heights High School, and he may work as a barber.

Brett Knowles
Brett Knowles

Mr. Knowles has a substantial history in the Palm Beach County courts. This is not a typo – he has 41 cases in the system. Some of them are multiple charges from one incident, but that’s still a lot.
Here’s a mugshot from a 2013 arrest for driving with a suspended license:
brett-knowles-mug
The court record indicates he got 4 days in jail for that one. He had a similar incident in 2012 and got 10 days in jail, which may have been longer because he failed to show up for a court date. Oddly the 2013 incident was charged as a first offense even though it obviously was at least the second offense.
Mr. Knowles faced felony drug charges in 2008 and 2010. On the 2008 case he was sentenced to 10 days in jail and on the 2010 cases (2 incidents) he got 6 months.
Update: It occurred to us we should check Broward. Mr. Knowles had an incident there in August of 2013. It was a combination of drug possession, a traffic ticket, and criminal driving with a suspended license.
In addition to those he’s had a few misdemeanors and numerous traffic tickets. He also demonstrated questionable judgment by posting this on his Facebook page:
knowles-gecko
We spoke with a family member of one of the pedestrians. PBSO informed the family that Mr. Knowles was driving with a suspended license, that police were tipped as to the license plate and met him at his home, where he admitted being the driver.
Here’s where it gets interesting: From the court records database, no charges have been filed against Mr. Knowles yet, not even a traffic ticket. A deputy told the family that Mr. Knowles would be in jail within a few days. It’s been over five weeks and he is still free with no charges pending from the incident.
Update – PBSO’s Theresa Barbera responded:

This investigation is still active an ongoing. Once completed the state attorneys office will review. These types of investigations take days, weeks and sometimes months.

We tried to reach Mr. Knowles but he hung up on us. To be fair, that’s probably a good decision on his part.
All three pedestrians were hurt, ranging from head injuries and broken bones to one undergoing surgery. Both to protect their privacy and because we don’t have enough information, we won’t go into more detail on the extent of the injuries.
We still hope to get more information on this case. If any of our readers can provide us with more or put us in touch with anyone involved, please let us know. We can be reached at warren@westbocanews.com.

Serious Accident Closes 441 Northbound: Scene Photos & Video

Update: Per a reader the road is still closed as of 11:40 pm on Friday night.
scene-wide-1024
A friend alerted us tonight to an accident scene on the northbound side of 441 near Target and West Boca Medical Center. We went to the scene and took several photos as well as video. A brief video summary is below, but it was early in our investigation and we learned more afterward.

We also received the following thanks to Palm Beach County Alerts:

***WEST BOCA*** Pedestrian Accident — Central Park Blvd S @ State Road 7 — R51 onscene in front of West Boca Hospital, vehicle hit multiple pedestrians, Incident Commander advising they have 2 Trauma Alerts going to Delray Trauma Center by ground & 1 other patient non-critical — Tac 4A

Here’s a map showing the location:

At the scene this reporter was able to see various items of debris in the roadway and on the shoulder. In particular there was a shoe or sneaker, a flip-flop, and a hat, all in the travel portion of the roadway.
shoe-flip-hat
I also saw two different skateboards, an orange one just off the shoulder at the south end of the scene, and a green one further into the grass at the north end of the debris area. In the picture below, the orange skateboard is at the lower left corner and you may be able to see the shoe in roughly the middle of the picture.
skateboard-debris-cars-800
I’m not sure why this worked with my camera but the shot below gives a good sense of the amount of debris in the roadway behind one of the cars that was on the scene:
car-debris-800
Later on deputies from PBSO were spray-painting the roadway where the items were and then collecting the items as evidence, as seen in the two videos below:


Piecing it all together based on my experience in handling criminal and personal injury cases including accident reconstructions, certain details stand out. First of all the shoe, flip-flop and hat in the roadway suggest that the pedestrians were in the roadway when they were hit. It is somewhat common for a pedestrian to be literally knocked out of their shoes when hit by a car. In this case it would appear that two different pedestrians were hit, as it seems unlikely that one person would be wearing a flip-flop on one foot and a shoe on the other.
There is not much lighting on the northbound side of the road and it may have been difficult for a driver to see skateboarders crossing the road in the dark. We were notified of the accident after 8:30 pm and it was dark.
Shortly before we left the scene the individuals we saw at the side of the road were allowed to leave. It’s unclear if they were just witnesses, or if one of their vehicles had been involved in the collision. I did not see any damage to either vehicle though the lighting was poor and I was not allowed to get close to the vehicles.
I should also note that a reader told us:

Two teenagers on the ground by west boca medical center. Looks like they must have been hit by a car or something.

Also, per CBS 12: “Three people were riding skateboards in the bike lane when they were hit by the vehicle. The vehicle then fled the scene and the driver was later caught, according to The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.”
image

Andy Foss Killed at Sandalfoot & 441

Update: We heard from many people who had kind words to say about Mr. Foss. Most notable was Valerie, who talked about how kind and thoughtful he was even when he was dealing with his own problems.
andy-foss
We’ve now heard from two readers that the man killed this morning at Sandalfoot and 441 was 34-year-old Andy Foss, whose last known address was in West Sandalfoot.
From one of our readers:

A guy named Jacco … was with him he … stumbled out into traffic. … His grandfather … died a couple months ago … which left him homeless. He has been wandering around ever since… Every time I drove past him I was pretty sure it’d be the last time [because he wasn’t doing well].

We haven’t been able to find out much more about Mr. Foss. He may have been a Spanish River graduate and he had a few mostly minor run-ins with the law over the years. He may also have owned a home in Rainberry Park (near West Boca Medical Center) in the past.
From other sources it’s our impression that Mr. Foss was homeless and was crossing the intersection along with another man (apparently Jacco). One of them was on a bicycle but it’s not clear yet which one. Fire Rescue reported a bicyclist was hit, while PBSO reported it was a pedestrian (which can include bicyclists).

Fatal Bicycle Accident on 441 at Sandalfoot

Update 2: Readers sent us photos. The latest is immediately below, and an earlier photo is at bottom.
sandalfoot-body
Update: At 8 am we have a fresh report that 441 southbound is still closed.
pbso-pedestrian
A bicyclist was killed this morning on 441 at Sandalfoot. Both PBSO (above) and Fire Rescue (below) reported this on Twitter.
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The accident happened earlier this morning, but we still see traffic impact on 441 south of Sandalfoot, and we’ve seen unverified reports that Sandalfoot Blvd is closed.
441-traffic
A reader sent us this photo:
sandalfoot-fatal

Wednesday's 441-Sandalfoot Pedestrian

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Thanks to yet another reader for both the above photo and the details of an incident Wednesday at Sandalfoot and 441.

Regarding your story yesterday about the man hit on 441 and sandalfoot: I was there and know what happened.
The driver was in the turning lane turning from 441 onto Sandalfoot west on a green light. The homeless man was very drunk on his bike fighting with another homeless man when he got pissed and decided to ride into oncoming traffic from the side of the road.
The driver didn’t even see him and the man on the bike collided with the side breaking the mirror and making a couple scratches to the car, his bike was undamaged. The man was taken by ambulance and was highly intoxicated but otherwise seemed ok on the scene.
The police made a report and even the other homeless men acted as witnesses on the driver’s behalf. The driver was found not at fault. I will include a photo to prove how close I was to the incident.

We reported the incident earlier on Facebook and other readers sent us photos, below:
bicycle-441
441-fire-truck
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Our best guess is that the police car is from Coconut Creek PD, but we’re not sure.

Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Tuesday Night on 441

Last night we were heading out to the grocery store and noticed this tweet:
tweet-pbcfr
Since we ended up at the Sandalfoot Publix, we headed over to the intersection of SW 18th (Marina) and 441 to take a look. The incident was mostly resolved but deputies were on scene clearing it up.
sw18th-441
There were still flares burning on the sidewalk on the northeast corner along SW 18th.
flares-hot
We could also see residue in the roadway on SW 18th from what we think were flares.
flares-residue
Palm Beach County Fire Rescue reported that they found a man in the roadway who had been struck by a vehicle and he was transported to Delray Medical Center for as a trauma patient. We have heard reports that this was a hit-and-run with the vehicle driving away.
One of our readers shared this photo with us from the scene. It’s not pretty, but far enough away that you can’t tell much from it.
pedestrian-sw18th
We don’t see any arrests in the Sheriff’s blotter today for hit-and-run so it appears the driver has not been caught yet. If anyone has any ideas, please notify Crime Stoppers or let us know and we’ll forward tips to the Sheriff.

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