Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Outpouring of Grief in Deputy's Death; Nassau County Officer Running across Highway after Man Who Fled U.S. Border Patrol Agents Is Struck by SUV, Killed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Outpouring of Grief in Deputy's Death; Nassau County Officer Running across Highway after Man Who Fled U.S. Border Patrol Agents Is Struck by SUV, Killed

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

Eric James Oliver's Facebook page shows a smiling man in his Nassau County Sheriff's Office uniform, a little girl hugging him in a photo taken just days before Hurricane Matthew hit Northeast Florida.

Below it, a wish from a friend advising the 32-year-old deputy to "Stay safe brother."

Just before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, as the 7-year deputy chased a man who ran from U.S. Border Patrol agents at a Gate gas station in Yulee, Oliver's life ended when he was hit by a passing sport utility vehicle on Florida 200.

Visibly emotional, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper paused before talking about how he had just met with the deputy's family, including 6-year-old daughter Shelby Lynn Oliver.

"It is very tragic and very sad, but we told them he died doing what he loved to do and he was a good police officer," Leeper said after growing quiet at the mention of the little girl. "He worked hard ... protecting the community. He will certainly be missed."

Facebook was awash with sorrow upon news of his death.

Friends of the deputy posted a Nassau County Sheriff's Office badge with a black and blue ribbon across its face that read "In memory of: Deputy Eric Oliver, #945." Another friend, Philip Williams, posted that he had "lost one my greatest friends this morning doing his job. Going to miss u Brother. Let's please send some prayers out for him and his family."

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar posted "heartfelt condolences" to the Nassau County Sheriff's Office. "Our sympathies are with you, and we are here for whatever help you need," he wrote.

Oliver died just before 7:30 a.m. while pursuing a man across Florida 200 in Yulee, Leeper said. Some deputies were at the gas station to back up the Border Patrol, who had pulled over a pickup truck with six people inside, he said.

As agents questioned the six, one ran, Leeper said. Two deputies sprinted across the westbound lanes in pursuit, according to the sheriff.

"One just got across into the median. The second failed to get across and was struck by another vehicle that was traveling westbound," Leeper said. "He sustained fatal injuries and died at the scene."

Jennifer Joshua Simmons was driving by when the accident occurred. She said the gas station has been a spot in the past where the Border Patrol has checked out possible illegal immigrants in vehicles. On Tuesday, she said she got to the gas station as it was happening.

"He was chasing a guy that ran across Florida A1A when he was hit by a lady in an SUV," Simmons said. "People were on the scene very quickly and started CPR once the traffic was stopped and it was safe, but I think it may have been too late at that point. They never got a pulse, but the guy who was doing the CPR never gave up and kept trying until paramedics showed up. …

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