Family Files Michigan Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Police Officer Following Fatal ATV Crash

Last month, the parents of a 15-year-old filed a federal lawsuit seeking $50 million from a Michigan State Police Officer. The victim died on August 26th after crashing his ATV into a pickup truck. The crash was prompted when the officer, who was trying to get the victim off the road during a chase, reached out of his patrol car and Tasered the victim. The victim was not armed, and it’s against Michigan State Police policy to use a Taser from a moving vehicle. Detroit police are investigating the fatal incident.

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The plaintiffs’ lawyer said the officer shot “like a cowboy” out of his car. The officer’s lawyer said that the victim was driving his ATV dangerously and recklessly to actively evade being arrested. The officer was therefore, according to his attorney, forced to make a split-second decision on the scene during an uncertain, tense, and quickly changing situation. His attorney concluded that the officer was cooperative in the investigation and trusted that the investigators would assess the facts objectively.

The 43-year-old officer joined the Michigan State Police’s Metro Post in 2012, after serving for three years with the Canton Township Police. He graduated from the Wayne County Regional Police Academy in November 2008. He earned his BA from Texas A&M, a Master’s from University of Texas at Arlington, and a JD from Ava Maria School of Law. In June, he was honored by Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority for saving the lives of overdose victims by using Naloxone.

According to court records, however, the officer has a history of excessive force. Two lawsuits have been filed against him in the last four years. The first was filed in 2013 in federal court in Detroit and alleged that he beat an unarmed man who was never charged with a crime. The case claimed that several Michigan State Police troopers approached and then violently tackled the plaintiff at a Detroit hospital without provocation. The plaintiff posed no threat, but the officer nonetheless repeatedly kneed the plaintiff in the face while he was lying defenseless on the ground. The case was settled a year after it was filed, in October 2014.

The second case, which was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court in 2015, alleged that the officer Tasered the plaintiff continuously and specifically to inflict pain, even after the plaintiff had been handcuffed. According to the filings, the officer tried to pull over the plaintiff after running his plates and noticing they didn’t match the car. When the plaintiff did not slow down, the other troopers joined in on the high-speed chase. When the troopers finally did stop the plaintiff, they smashed his passenger window, Tasered him, pulled him out of the window, and handcuffed him, but then they continued to Taser him. The officer admitted he Tasered the plaintiff while he was handcuffed because the plaintiff tried to kick him. It was later revealed that the plaintiff broke his arm during the incident. The case was eventually dismissed without prejudice, which tends to occur when a case is settled outside court.

The victim’s attorney called the present incident a “drive-by shooting of a child on an ATV.” ATV riding was one of the victim’s main hobbies, something he enjoyed doing with his father. He was just weeks away from starting the ninth grade in Warren when he died.

The wrongful death attorneys at the Neumann Law Group represent people throughout Michigan from offices in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Call us at (231) 463-0122 or at (616) 717-5666 for a free consultation.

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Michigan Appeals Court Holds Student Suicide Lawsuit Barred by Governmental Immunity, Neumann Law Group, June 16, 2017.

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