BUFORD — The driver who seriously injured a police officer directing traffic outside a local high school Wednesday morning will be facing charges, police said — but the severity of those charges is yet to be determined.
Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Resource Officer Rolando Jimenez, an 11-year veteran, was directing traffic outside of Lanier High School when, at about 6:45 a.m., he was struck by a vehicle and sent to the hospital in critical condition. Authorities believe the woman who hit him should have been stopped instead.
Cpl. Edwin Ritter said 22-year-old Sydney Smigiel of Buford was driving her Jeep Grand Cherokee southbound on Buford Highway when Jimenez “was directing traffic at Lanier High School and signaled for the southbound traffic to stop.”
The officer then began directing northbound vehicles to turn left onto school property.
“Ms. Smigiel failed to obey Officer Jimenez’s direction to stop and struck Officer Jimenez as the other vehicles were turning left,” Ritter said. “Officer Jimenez went airborne and landed in the left turn lane for the high school.”
Smigiel’s Jeep then struck a vehicle turning left and “pushed that vehicle onto” Jimenez.
Jimenez, 48, was transported to Gwinnett Medical Center, originally in critical condition but later upgraded to “serious” condition.
No injuries were reported in the second vehicle, a Ford Focus driven by a 17-year-old Lanier student.
Schools spokesman Jorge Quintana said Jimenez has been with GCPS police since 2001 and is the Lanier cluster resource officer. Lanier High School opened in 2010.
Jimenez was wearing a reflective vest and using a flashlight with a “bright orange traffic wand” at the time of the incident, police said. His patrol car was also on the side of the road, lights flashing.
Charges are pending against Smigiel, though which ones was yet to be decided Wednesday.
“Ms. Smigiel, at minimum, is facing charges for failing to obey the officer’s traffic directions,” Ritter said.
Lanier High School Principal Kerensa Wing posted a message to the school’s Facebook page Wednesday.
“It is my understanding that Officer Jimenez’s injuries are serious and I know all of us in the Lanier Cluster are thinking about him and wish him a speedy recovery,” she wrote.
Jimenez is the second GCPS resource officer to be seriously injured by a car in recent months, though the circumstances were quite different.
Officer Chuck McCallum, 53, was hit by a Meadowcreek High School student on Nov. 8 while he was in the process of chasing three other students who had been involved in a fight. McCallum, who normally works in the Norcross cluster, had been called to the school when administrators reported the students had left school grounds after a commons area altercation.
The driver, 17-year-old Jarvis Ruff, reportedly fled the scene in his vehicle before crashing into the stone entrance of a nearby subdivision.