LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) – The family of a 13-year-old killed while inside a stolen SUV that crashed while fleeing police in December has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Louisville Metro Police Department officer, claiming he violated the department's pursuit policy in an "anger and pursuit rage."
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Sam Aguiar in Jefferson Circuit Court last month, claims Officer Roger Marcum improperly participated in a high-speed chase on Dec. 22 of a stolen SUV on Fern Valley Road, "slamming his cruiser into the SUV," causing the "violent crash."
Police have only said that the driver of the SUV, which had five people inside, including Ki’Anthony Tyus, lost control, flipped and crashed into a ditch.
Ki’Anthony was known in the community after he survived getting hit by a stray bullet three years ago and became an activist who spoke out against gun violence. Family said he had permission to go skating at the Manslick Rollerdome that day and they did not know how he ended up in the stolen SUV.
Christopher 2X, who has a spokesman for the family, said the teen was picked up close to Old Louisville and the Shelby Park area about 15 minutes before the chase.
2x says the teen was getting a ride to the store with another teen.
LMPD has for years had one of the strictest pursuit policies in the nation, as officers are only allowed to chase suspects if the person has been involved in a violent felony and the pursuit is authorized by a commanding officer.
"However, at least one LMPD officer disregarded these pursuit policies on December 22, 2018 and a 13-year-old child was killed because the officers wanted to catch a stolen SUV," according to the suit.
The SUV was stolen, police have said, and the driver did not pull over when officers initiated a stop on I-65 South. A previous police statement said the driver turned toward officers, causing two patrol cars to crash, then sped away on I-65.
The lawsuit argues it is unclear what caused the officers to wreck.
An officer on the scene indicated officers let the SUV go, but Marcum "was clearly not ok with the SUV being let go" and re-engaged in a pursuit along with another officer, according to the lawsuit.
The other officer stopped chasing the SUV after a separate motorist was injured in a wreck, the suit claims.
The suit says Marcum did not have supervisor permission to pursue the SUV, had no indication a violent felony had been committed and knew that one motorist had already been in a wreck because of the chase.
In addition, Marcum reported that the SUV ran a red light and "any reasonable officer in a similar situation would have concluded … that the risks continued by the pursuit outweighed the needs for immediate apprehension," according to the lawsuit.
Marcum "let his emotions get the best of him, putting his personal agenda of getting those he suspected of causing an injury accident to officers ahead of the policies precluding initiation of a pursuit and mandating termination under the circumstances present," the suit claims.
Aguiar, the attorney representing the family, said the "pursuit wasn't justified under policy and it was the exact type of chase LMPD policies were changed to prevent and the exact type of terrible consequence that LMPD recognizes happens far too often when the policy is disregarded."
LMPD said Monday the department is still trying to determine whether the police chase violated the department's pursuit policy. A spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In 2015, LMPD Chief Steve Conrad told WDRB he updated the department’s pursuit policy in 2012, making it one of the strictest in the country, because about 50 percent of chases were resulting in wrecks.
"Even after you've weighed the risk, it is still an incredibly dangerous activity for everyone involved," Conrad said.
The lawsuit also alleges that police did not report that Ki’Anthony was motionless until 10 minutes after the wreck. The four other passengers were injured.
Ki’Anthony was hit by a stray bullet from a shootout at Ballard Park when he was 9 years old. He needed multiple surgeries to repair his leg.
The 13-year-old met with state government leaders, basketball stars, and music legends to spread the message about gun violence. Rapper and businessman Master P paid for the child’s funeral.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.
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