For the second time in nearly eight months, the Clearcreek Twp. Police Department is mourning the loss of a fellow officer — this time in a head-on crash involving an alleged impaired driver.
Officer Jerrid M. Lee, 27, of Bethel, was killed in a crash on Ohio 125 on Monday night, while off duty, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Clearcreek Twp. Police Chief John Terrill noted the irony of Lee, who liked to work traffic cases where he could get drunk drivers off the road, dying in a crash alleged to be alcohol related.
Terrill called it a “senseless loss of life.”
“It’s hard to understand,” Terrill said.
Justin Watts, 31, of Cincinnati, was arraigned on Tuesday in Clermont County Municipal Court on a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide resulting from an OVI, according to court records.
He was in the Clermont County jail on $1 million bond, according to jail records.
Lee’s death occurred less than a year after Clearcreek Twp. Police Sgt. Larry Cornett was found dead at home, while off duty in May.
“For us to go through this in just the matter of eight months is just crazy, heartbreaking,” Sgt. Wallace Stacy said Tuesday.
Lee had just celebrated his one-year-anniversary with the township and his 27th birthday, Stacy said.
According to a release by the patrol’s Batavia Post, preliminary investigation indicates a GMC Envoy, operated by Watts, was traveling east on Ohio 125 when the vehicle drove across the center turn lane into the westbound lanes and struck Lee’s Honda Civic head-on.
Watts declined medical treatment at the scene. Lee was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to Clermont County online court records, Watts’ criminal record dates back to 2005 and includes charges of driving under the influence,under-age consumption, assault, domestic violence, obstructing official business, receiving stolen property, assault, drug trafficking and driving under suspension.
After Monday night’s fatal crash, a Clearcreek Twp. police cruiser was parked on the hill overlooking the intersection of Ohio 741 and Ohi0 73 where the township ‘s offices are located. A wreath and a digital sign reading “SLOW” are placed on the cruiser.
Lee started part-time with Clearcreek Twp. on Aug. 14, 2017, after five years in the U.S. Air Force, Stacy said.
Lee served as a police officer and in security forces during his military service, including time at Wright-Patterson Air Force base, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
He started full-time with Clearcreek on Jan. 22, 2018.
He is survived by his wife, Katie, and young children, according to a press release.
On Monday night, he was apparently heading to a gym for a workout before reporting for work.
“He was one of our young officers on the midnight shift,” Stacy said. “He’s going to be sorely missed.”
The incident prompted a heavy response from other area law enforcement.
“Last night we started hearing from other agencies,” Stacy said. “The police community is a pretty tight-knit community. We greatly appreciate the support and all the offers for help.”
Funeral arrangements were pending.