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Officer injured trying to assist truck driver

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A Clayton County police officer was hit by a Pontiac Grand Am Sunday night.

The officer, Jose Avelar, was standing in a southbound lane of Clark Howell Highway at about 11 p.m., helping a semi truck pull off to the side of the road, according to the accident report. Avelar's police cruiser was parked in front of the semi, blue lights flashing, but the driver of the red Pontiac didn't see the officer until he hit him, and the officer bounced off his windshield, police said.

Avelar was not seriously injured.

"He was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center," said Officer Tim Owens, police department spokesman. "He was treated and released for scrapes and bruises and some muscle stiffness ... The officer had just stepped away from the front of the tractor trailer when he was hit. Apparently the driver had slowed down and was using due caution, at the time of the accident."

The driver, Stephen Gregory Meadows, of Stockbridge, was not cited and did not do anything wrong, according to police.

The officer was given three days to recover, and appeared to have been following police policy, when the accident happened. Avelar wasn't wearing a reflective vest, at the time, but the vest is only required, by policy, when an officer is directing traffic.

"If you pull up and somebody's broken down," Owens said, "and you're trying to get somebody to the side of the road, you wouldn't typically go back for your vest."

Owens said the officer was lucky his injuries were minor, and said the experience should remind drivers to watch for officers at traffic stops and assists.

"Any time you're out there in traffic and you're doing your job, there's a risk, but we want to minimize that risk as much as possible," he said.

"It's state law you're supposed to move over and slow down. If you do observe blue or red lights, there's an officer from public safety. You're supposed to, by law, move over one lane, if possible, and slow down to try and keep officers safe."