Who Is to Blame in the Deaths of Two Elderly Longboat Residents?

Guest Writer

Just before last Christmas, Longboat Key Police Officer Jeffrey D. Vogt was responding to a smoke alert, — that later turned out to be burnt hot dogs — driving at 84 miles per hour on Gulf of Mexico Drive, emergency lights on, but with no siren.

Margery and Charles Barancik.

Charles Barancik, a well known philanthropist who had given more than $300 million dollars to his prominent Sarasota foundation, drove out of the driveway at the en Provence condo at 2131 GMD. Barancik was traveling at 9 miles per hour and his view of the roadway was blocked by construction material. The Vogt police cruiser slammed into Barancik’s Tesla at 83 miles per hour.

Charles 91, was pronounced dead at the scene, blunt impact with lacerations of the heart and aorta. His wife Margery died soon after of a skull fracture. Police investigators were unable to find any pre-impact skid marks.

Barancik’s vision of the highway had been blocked by a backhoe and water trailer parked in the grassy edge of the roadway. Vogt’s view may have been also blocked. Several condo residents, including Charles Barancik, had complained earlier about the construction items being parked on the roadway.

Officer Vogt was fired after an internal investigation revealed a history of speeding and shutting off his video camera in violation of policy rules. From September 1, 2018, to the night of the crash, Vogt was cited for speeding 21 times . He was also cited for turning off his video and audio recorder six times during traffic stops.

But Officer Vogt was not criminally charged. Barancik was cited as being at fault for “violating the right of way of the police vehicle.”

In view of the nationwide protests about police procedures, many residents feel that some reforms are needed even in a tranquil little town like Longboat Key.

Longboat Key doesn’t have the kind of problems with police that other towns and cities are having.

“Choke holds are barred according to policy,” said Police Chief Pete Cumming. “In the eight years I have been chief, I have never had an incident of a policeman shooting his gun.”

“We have had a few ‘Use of Force’ reports where a policeman draws his gun, but these are carefully reviewed,” said Chief Cumming. “We had one case in eight years where a taser was used and I have never seen a complaint about police brutality.”

According to the Chief Cumming, the system clearly broke down. “We are reassessing our policies. I have instituted a new policy of checking car videos and speeding records daily rather than a couple of times per week.” He admits that he did not know about Officer Vogt’s speeding record until the investigation after the accident.

But this is not enough for some residents.

“This cop was responsible for the deaths of two elderly residents, but the real responsibility for it was the failure of the police chief to deal with about 50 cases of misconduct by the cops,” wrote LBK resident Bill Allen in an email to Town Manager Tom Harmer, referring to the complaints against Vogt.

Allen contends that police superiors should be responsible and disciplined for flagrantly violating the town rules while endangering the health and well being of our mostly senior residents. So far he has gotten no response from the Town Manager in ten days.

Allen points out that “this cop was speeding down the high dozens of times at 80 mph with a lot of old people around.” Allen also says that when it comes to officer discipline, the police union is in charge. A point that has been raised by protesters around the country.

Two supervisors in the LBK police department department were disciplined for failing to adequately monitor former Officer Vogt. But that disciplinary action has been appealed by the police union, with no decision yet. The Police Chief declined to release the names of the supervisors or the names of other officers who have been disciplined in the past.

Transparency, regarding the disciplinary records of police officers, is also a major issue being brought up by protesters around the country.

If the record of the police officer who killed George Floyd had been publicized and transparent, he might have been drummed out of the force much earlier and Floyd might be alive today.

The Mayor said that the Town Commissioners have not dealt with any possible reforms on LBK, but that the Town Manager Tom Harmer has been in touch with Police Chief Cumming and is following possible police led reforms.

“The Baranciks have a strong case for a suit,” said Bill Allen. “The police were negligent in the deaths of those two people. The police car never should have been there. The guy’s speeding record should have had him thrown off the force long ago.”

Although a civil action against the Town, and perhaps the road contractors, was expected by many, no notices have been filed to date, according to Mayor Ken Schneier.

But if a multi-million dollar litigation by the Baranciks is successful, the consequences for the town budget and taxpayers might be severe and costly. Taxes will have to go up. The Mayor said that they have up to two years to file.

Bill Allen suggested that Mr. Barancik’s wealthy foundation could support local organizations that are seeking police reforms and hope to hold police accountable. “Police union contracts are to blame. Two people are dead, that police car and that cop never should have been there.”

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Longboat Key News

1 Response for “Who Is to Blame in the Deaths of Two Elderly Longboat Residents?”

  1. John Flaherty says:

    The citizens deserve an explanation for this tragedy. If the facts are correct about officer Vogt, it’s an outrage he was still employed.I would be in jail if I drove on LBK as Vogt is alleged to have done.
    Good reporting to highlight the facts behind the tragedy.

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