When officers are assigned to the midnight shift, they learn that the nights usually slow down around 3:00 AM. From that time until the city wakes up, an officer can catch his breath.
It was early in the morning – the quiet time – of Friday, June 27, 1980, forty-two years ago today. Officers Richard Powers and Curtis Jones were enjoying a cup of coffee. At 5:30 AM, a call came over the radio calling for help at the scene of a burglary in progress at the Oar Lounge on Barrancas Avenue. Both officers immediately jumped into their vehicles and sped south on Palafox Street to respond. Curtis was driving a two-month-old 1980 Ford LTD. Recently the LTD models had been the subject of a national debate about the tires being substandard at high rates of speed. As both officers were headed down Palafox Street, Rick had to stop at a red light, but Curtis continued, driving 60-70 miles per hour. Rick couldn’t see down the hill on Palafox Street, but he could see the spectacular display of fire as Curtis’ car cut the power pole in half. When Rick arrived at the scene, he could tell that Curtis had been approaching Yonge Street when his cruiser veered off the road. The car snapped the power pole and bounced off the building at 2401 N. Palafox Street before crashing into the Palafox Lounge. His police cruiser came to rest at the side of the building and the light bar for his emergency lights was found on the roof. Curtis never regained consciousness. He died shortly thereafter. It appeared that Curtis lost control after his vehicle struck a curb. The issue regarding the substandard tires was debated, but nothing was ever proven.
Curtis Jones was from Crestview, Florida, where he was survived by his parents, Mr. & Mrs. Valton Jones. Before joining the force three years earlier, he was an officer with the Crestview Police Department. Funeral services were held at 11 AM on Monday, June 30 at the First Baptist Church of Crestview, where it was attended by 150 officers. Members of the Pensacola Police Department served as the honor guard.
Information for this post was gathered through Pensacola Police Department reports, first-hand accounts from Pensacola Police officers, and articles in the Pensacola News Journal.