Lawsuit: Cleveland Police Contributed to Crash that Injured Minor Siblings, Killed Younger Lady
Attorneys for the mother of the two injured children said that police should’ve called off the chase rather than risking the health and well-being of the community.
The mother of two siblings who were inadvertently injured during a high-speed police chase has filed a lawsuit against the City of Cleveland and several law enforcement officials.
According to Cleveland.com, Cleveland police were pursuing teenage robbery suspects across the city. While trying to evade officers, the suspects swerved onto a sidewalk, where they hit and injured a 12-year old girl and a 12-year old boy.
The pair had just left school and were walking to a library with several friends when the crash occurred.
One of the children—Tamia Chappman—died following the collision.
Cleveland.com reports that the lawsuit—filed in Cuyahoga County Court—accuses the city and 17 Cleveland police officers of acting recklessly and negligently in their pursuit of the robbery suspects.
Wooden gavel on black, reflective surface; image via pxhere.com, CCO.
The chase, notes Cleveland.com, took officers and the suspects through residential neighborhoods, with sustained vehicular speeds of up to 75 miles per hour.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege that Cleveland police supervisors should have known better than to allow a high-speed chase to take place in a residential area. In their lawsuit, the family states that the risk to members of the greater Cleveland community was not worth the possibility of immediately capturing the suspects, who are now accused of robbery and carjacking.
The mother—identified as Zandra Mason by FOX8—says her children not only suffered physically, but are continuing to endure psychological trauma.
“My children are suffering from grief survival and PTSD, and they’re having issues with nightmares,” Mason said.
One of Mason’s two children had purportedly been holding hands with Chappman when the crash occurred.
“Zelda Mason was actually holding Tamia Chappman’s hand when they were both hit… She had severe injuries to her shoulder, her neck and her back, brain trauma as well,” said attorney Stanley Jackson, who is representing the plaintiffs.
As of Tuesday, the City of Cleveland had declined comment to FOX8, saying it had not yet reviewed a copy of the lawsuit and does not typically comment on ongoing litigation.
Jeff Folmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, tried to divert blame from the involved officers, suggesting that—while the crash was tragic—more blame should be ascribed to the fleeing robbery suspects than pursuing law enforcement.
“It’s a tragedy that there was a loss of life. Our officers were investigated and found to be within the Cleveland police policy and procedure for pursuing vehicles. It’s a shame in this day and age we put more blame on the officers than the criminals committing the violent crimes,” Folmer said in a statement.
However, Jackson was quick to point out an unfortunate flaw in arguments like Folmer’s—as well as the reason many police departments have policies that prohibit officers from pursuing suspects when chases may lead through densely-populated or otherwise high-traffic areas.
“Property is replaceable,” Jackson said. “These children, their innocence, their life is irreplaceable.”
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