The family of Jermaine “Reeko” Butler celebrated his life with a candlelight vigil Saturday, May 31 in the Hudson Hill Community Park in Savannah, Georgia. The hope for the memorial is to not only remember the 42-year-old, but to also draw attention to the open hit and run case and attract any leads that could help police catch the perpetrator.
The fatality, which occurred in April, is one of the most recent in the increasing number of pedestrian traffic-related deaths in Savannah.
Butler’s mother, Willie Jefferson tells WSAV 3 that on the night of her son’s murder she was talking about a recent auto-related death—not knowing that her own son would fall victim to a similar fate. Butler was struck and killed on Howard Foss Drive. The person responsible didn’t stop to see if he was okay or wait for police and still has not been apprehended.
“We are devastated,” says Jefferson. “We have not and I don't know if we ever will recover from this loss…it was painful. It's heartbreaking for me, because it's like every night I just imagine what my son must have gone through.”
“I can feel it in my heart. How he must have felt to be left in the street—not able to move, and only to be run over by a second car.”
The second driver to hit the 42-year-old stopped and waited for police. Unfortunately, it was too late for Butler, who was pronounced dead on the scene. According to WSAV 3, authorities believe the driver to first hit Butler was in a General Motors’ made car.
While the hunt is still on for the offender, law enforcement officials are taking necessary measures to help ensure a decrease in the number of such fatalities. The 90-day traffic enforcement operation, better known as “Operation Thunder,” kicked-off May 30 and will see 30 officers from agencies across Georgia join Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police to specifically target aggressive or intoxicated drivers.
“Serious and fatal accidents are among the most heartbreaking events we respond to and it is so disturbing to realize most could have been prevented with just a little more caution on the part of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists,” says Police Chief Julie Tolbert, WJCL News reports. “Some of these victims are children and many of them were doing absolutely nothing wrong when someone else’s carelessness brought them tragedy. We hope this operation will help us curtail that.”
According to Tolbert, the last time Operation Thunder moved into the area was in 2007 and there was a significant decrease in such kinds of fatalities.
Metro Traffic Unit Lt. Greg Mitchell, who is overseeing the operation, shares that officers will be focused on traffic hot spots—emphasizing road checks, speed and school enforcement, and pedestrian and bicycle safety.
“Speeders, aggressive drivers and drunk drivers will be sought out in an attempt to make our streets and highways safer,” states Mitchell. Adding, that special efforts will also be made to ensure safety during 4th of July weekend, a time when traffic-related accidents are at a high.
Officers of Operation Thunder will join Mitchell and his traffic and precinct patrol force through August 29.
Ravelle Worthington is a writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter @ravmo.