'She Just Floored It': Witness Can't Fathom Fatal Decision

Temple student Cariann Hithon was shot by police after driving car into an officer
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 10, 2017 9:50 AM CDT
How a Student in Miami for Her Birthday Ended Up Dead
Stock photo.   (Getty/alljohn784)

The minute before a 22-year-old Temple University student drove her BMW into a Florida police officer and was fatally shot "played out like a movie set" on Miami Beach, said a retired homicide detective who witnessed the incident. Cariann Hithon of Bowie, Md., crashed into several cars Sunday evening as people watched from sidewalk cafes in the tourist district known as South Beach, police said, per the AP. "It played out like a movie set with people running, screaming, car crashes, gunshots, an injured officer lying on his back on the ground—all within a minute," retired Miami-Dade homicide detective John Butchko, whose car Hithon hit, tells the Miami Herald. Butchko's passenger, Miami Beach lawyer Sean Ellsworth, added: "I was literally shocked she would drive into four or five officers. She just floored it."

Ellsworth and Butchko suffered minor injuries, and the officer who was hit by Hithon while on a bicycle, David Cajuso, was out of the hospital and recovering at home. The reason Hithon tried to flee may never be known. But investigators said they believe Hithon and her male friend—who was seen by witnesses casually getting out of the car before she accelerated—may have been drinking heavily earlier Sunday. Hithon was in town to celebrate her birthday. Hithon's father, retired US Navy Capt. Cary Hithon, tells the AP that he has many questions about what happened. But he says the account of events given to him by police does not sound like his daughter: "The only logical explanation in this situation is she panicked, and things just escalated out of control."

(More Florida stories.)

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