VIDEO: Lakeland officer lucky to be alive after being hit by drunk driver during traffic stop

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A Lakeland police officer managed to avoid tragedy this weekend by just a few inches.

The Lakeland Police Department says Officer Cory Suttle was hit by a drunk driver on Sunday while pulling over another drunk driver.

Officer Suttle was on duty just after 2 a.m. when saw a car make an illegal right turn on red at the intersection of Main Street and South Florida Avenue. Suttle pulled over the driver, 36-year-old Whitney Ritchie, who he says showed signs of impairment.

While Officer Suttle was standing at the driver’s side of the car, with the emergency lights activated on his own patrol car, his left elbow was hit by the mirror of a pickup truck driving by. Police say the driver didn’t slow down or try to help.

If the truck had been traveling just a few more inches to the right, Lakeland police say their officer would have suffered serious or fatal injuries.

Officer Suttle was able to get back into his patrol car and catch the pickup truck that hit him. Another officer then responded to the original DUI investigation with Ritchie.

Police identified the driver of the pickup truck as 21-year-old Jerry Coots and say he immediately apologized for hitting Suttle when he was stopped and ordered to get out of his truck. Coots told Officer Suttle he panicked when his passenger told him he hit a police officer.

Investigators say he was given a breath test and registered .14, almost twice the legal limit. He was charged with driving under the influence, driving under the influence with injury, failure to move over for a stopped emergency vehicle and failure to stop for a red light.

Ritchie was also given a breath test and registered .18, which is more than double the legal limit. She was arrested for driving under the influence.

Both were taken to the Polk County Jail.

Officer Suttle was treated at the Lakeland Regional Health Center and was later released.

Police want to remind everyone to move over when you see first responders and utility crews working.

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