PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — A day before Thanksgiving, a family is mourning the loss of their loved one — Charlotte County Deputy Christopher Taylor. The 23-year-old has only been on the force since February 2022, but the short time with them still made a lasting impact.
"Chris may have been an only child, but our countless brothers and sisters – many right here in the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office will mourn him," said Sheriff Bill Prummell.
The loss is being felt by law enforcement and community members.
"It kinda just wakes you up a little bit, makes you remember you never know what’s going to happen," said Donna Cardenas, co-owner of Port Charlotte Florist.
On Wednesday morning, the sheriff's office called the shop and asked for a wreath to honor Taylor. It's a phone call Cardenas has answered before.
"I believe it would’ve been Sgt. Wilson when that tragedy happened. We helped with that as well," she said.
The florist dropped off the red, white and blue wreath outside the sheriff's office, next to their patrol car that honors fallen officers.
"We know people that work there. Our friends have worked there, people we went to school with — it’s just, we’re part of the community," Cardenas explained. "It's just horrible."
According to Florida Highway Patrol, Taylor was hit by 30-year-old Cassandra Smith on Tuesday night on I-75. Taylor had pulled over a driver and they were both standing on the shoulder.
FHP says a Jeep SUV, driven by Smith, was traveling north on I-75 when it lost control and entered the northbound paved shoulder.
The Jeep hit the back of the unoccupied deputy's vehicle, which then hit Taylor and the third vehicle.
Sheriff Bill Prummell says the deputy was taken to Shorepoint Health in Punta Gorda and later died.
The driver of the third vehicle was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. The single passenger in that vehicle was not injured.
Smith, with a prior DUI arrest, was arrested by Charlotte County deputies for DUI manslaughter.
Law enforcement agencies from across the state have expressed their condolences on social media. Sen. Rick Scott and the Florida Attorney General also spoke out about Taylor's death.
"Always remember and never forget Deputy Christopher Taylor, badge number 3624. End of watch November 22, 2022," Prummell said.