Helicopters are routinely used by police departments in the Los Angeles area to spot traffic violators and to aid in arrests. Helicopters can also be used for direct intervention in traffic incidents, although this can be very dangerous. A recent lawsuit filed against the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office alleges that a sheriff’s deputy acted negligently when he fired nine shots at a driver heading the wrong way on the 215 Freeway last year and caused a serious car crash.
The incident began with a home robbery during the previous evening. Police were able to identify the suspect’s Chevrolet Tahoe, and it was spotted by deputies on the following day. The suspect refused orders to stop, and he attempted to escape. After a chase through city streets at speeds reaching 100 mph, the suspect entered the northbound lane of the 215 Freeway heading south into oncoming traffic. A deputy on board the helicopter fired nine shots into the Tahoe. The driver was struck by one or more bullets, and he jumped from the moving truck. The truck continued travelling south until it struck an SUV occupied by the plaintiffs. The truck driver collapsed at the side of the road and was pronounced dead at the scene.
No one died in the collision, but the family suffered a number of serious injuries. One of the injured persons was a young boy who had been born without a knee and who required crutches to get around. Both arms were broken in the crash, and he subsequently suffered infections in both arms. The injuries and the infection have confined him to bed, and his parent, who suffered serious injuries of their own, have been unable to care for him. The lawsuit claims that the deputy who fired the shots acted recklessly and that his reckless acts were the proximate cause of the family’s injuries.
Suing a police department based on a claim that an officer’s negligence caused an accident can be very difficult. Nevertheless, law enforcement officers occasionally overreact to stressful situations, and their overreaction can cause injury-producing accidents. Anyone who has been injured or lost a loved one in an accident caused by the actions of a police officer may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in auto accident cases. Such a consultation can provide a useful evaluation of the case and estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Family sues over San Bernardino deputy who shot pursuit suspect from helicopter, leading to crash,” Veronica Rocha, May 5, 2016