• Internal investigation recommends Sanford officer's firing over hit-and-run


    SANFORD, Fla. - An internal investigation has recommended another Sanford cop be fired, this time for an alleged hit-and-run crash.

    Video obtained by Channel 9 in December shows Sanford police Officer Steven Santiago taking a sobriety test after troopers said he left the scene of an accident.

    Santiago is a drunken-driving investigator with his department, but he found himself on the other side of the sobriety test and officers said they arrested him after he hit another car and then sped off.

    The reports claims Santiago admitted to having a few drinks that night, but he told Internal Affairs he remembers very little when he was pulled over by his own department.

    According to the report, Santiago said he remembers leaving The Barn in Sanford, where the police union had its Christmas party, and he remembers his plan was to go straight home from there.

    Santiago said he remembers driving on U.S. Route 17/92 for about four miles until he got to 25th Street. At that point, Santiago said he fell asleep or passed out and says he doesn't remember running from police officers, skidding into the wrong lane and off the road.

    Santiago said he didn't wake up until he got to Airport Boulevard and Placid Lake Drive and realized officers were chasing him.

    According to dispatch transmissions, Sanford police officers were following Santiago for at least 20 minutes as he drove on the wrong side of the road and struck multiple curbs.

    In radio transmissions obtained by WFTV, an officer can be heard saying, "He's wrong-way on Airport right now. Now he's over the curb."

    Santiago eventually pulled over.

    When Sanford police called the Florida Highway Patrol to take over the investigation, troopers appeared to suspect he had been drinking.

    "How much have you had to drink tonight?" Trooper Victor Fuente is heard asking Santiago.

    Troopers said Santiago admitted he had a couple of drinks before the crash. They also said he passed a field sobriety test.

    "He just clipped me, 'boom,'" said Edgar Gonzalez, the man whose car Santiago hit. "He floored it and just flew right off."

    Troopers could have arrested Santiago for the hit-and-run, but they choose to give him a criminal citation, and let Sanford officers drive him home.

    They said it is something often done with minor crashes with no serious injuries.

    "Of course it raises a lot of eyebrows as to whether he was given special treatment. Was he?" Channel 9 asked Sgt. Kim Montes of the Florida Highway Patrol.

    "Absolutely not," said Montes. "We've arrested other officers for DUI. We've arrested other officers and charged them in crashes. We've arrested our own."

    Santiago has another seven days to try to fight termination. Sanford police said the preponderance of the evidence, more than 50 percent, shows he broke the law.

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    Internal investigation recommends Sanford officer's firing over hit-and-run