Police car hits, runs over 3-year-old girl running from ice cream truck

Phoenix, AZ (KPHO) -- A 3-year-old girl is fighting for her life after a police car hit her when she darted into the street Tuesday evening.

It happened at about 7:30 p.m. in a neighborhood southeast of 75th Avenue and Camelback Road.

According to Officer James Holmes of the Phoenix Police Department, the officer, a woman, was in the area responding to an animal disturbance. As she was leaving the scene after wrapping up the call, she drove around an ice cream truck that was stopped for customers.

Police said the little girl ran in front of the ice cream truck and into the street. That's when the officer hit her.

"The indication is that the patrol car struck the child and then rolled over the child," Holmes said.

Initial reports were that the child was 5, but Holmes said she is 3.

The toddler suffered "a massive head injury" and was taken to Phoenix Children's Hospital, according to Capt. Rob McDade of the Phoenix Fire Department.

He said first responders did what they call a "scoop and go."

"We don't want to waste any time on the scene," McDade said, explaining that less than five minutes elapsed between the time firefighters were called out and the time they were heading to the hospital.

The little girl was rushed into surgery where doctors are doing everything they can for her.

Holmes said the toddler's mother was "in the area" when her daughter was hit and went with her to the hospital. It's possible she might have been with other children or otherwise distracted, but officers have not determined that.

This is not the first time a child has been hit by a car near an ice cream truck. Holmes said there was such an incident in South Phoenix earlier this year. He said the only sure way of keeping a child safe when on the street is to take him or her by the hand and not let go.

RELATED: 4-year-old boy dies after being hit by vehicle (Feb. 10, 2016)

"Our children are a lot faster than we are, and we need to understand and we need to get our hands on them and keep our hands on them, especially with an ice cream truck in the neighborhood," he said.

Holmes said the officer who hit the child is 35 years old and has been with the Phoenix Police Department for the past eight years. She was in the middle of her shift when she hit the little girl.

"The officer is not good at all," Holmes said. "She's not doing well."

The officer was taken to the Maryvale Precinct to be interviewed. Police also talked to neighbors and found at least two witnesses.

Detectives with the vehicular crimes unit are working to recreate the accident. Although the driver of the ice cream truck left the scene, possibly unaware of what had happened, officers located him and brought him back to the scene to assist with the investigation.

Holmes said he would provide updated information as he got it, but did not anticipate anything until Wednesday morning.

By Catherine Holland