$1.35 Million Settlement in Tempe Police Speeding Wrongful Death Suit

police-speeding without the benefit of lights or sirens, seems to be a routine thing. In this incident from a several years ago:

“[a Tempe Police officer] was travelling at 95 mph in a 45 mph zone without the use of his siren or light bar… five seconds before the crash”

…striking and killing a drunk pedestrian near Baseline and Rural roads who was (I presume) “jaywalking”. The incident occurred in 2005, but a wrongful death lawsuit wasn’t settled until 2010.

Here’s a news item:

$1.35 Million Settlement in Tempe Police Speeding Wrongful Death Suit
Loaded on AUG. 22, 2016
Filed under: Police Misconduct, Accidents, Police Chases. Location: Arizona.
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Kyle Baker, a 24-year-old Mesa Community College student, was crossing a street in Tempe, Arizona, at around 2:00 a.m. on November 26, 2005, when he was struck and killed by a police cruiser driven by on-duty police officer William Cullins. Cullins was travelling at 95 mph in a 45 mph zone without the use of his siren or light bar. Baker had a blood alcohol level of 0.18. Cullins said he was responding to a call for backup from an officer investigating a possible stolen car. Jim Barker and Kelly Wiscot, Kyle Barker’s parents, filed suit against the City of Tempe.

A Chandler City prosecutor who investigated the case said Cullins’s car recorded traveling at 95 mph that night, but wasn’t specific about the time. Cullins was fined $491 for speeding. A subsequent Tempe police investigation revealed that the car recorded travelling 95 mph five seconds before hitting Barker. The investigation determined that Cullins was driving recklessly and had violated three department policies. As a result of that investigation, Cullins was suspended without pay for one month–the maximum penalty allowed under police department guidelines.

Twenty of Cullins’s friends and family members attended the Tempe City Council meeting on January 12, 2010, in which the council unanimously voted to settle the suit for $1.35 million. During a public comments section of the meeting, Barker’s parents complained that the punishment given to Cullins was too light and noted that no one had ever apologized to them for the loss of their son. They expressed their belief that Cullins should have been fired and police department policy should be changed to allow for dismissal in similar future cases.

Source: The Arizona Republic.

Be sure to check out these other local (arizona) police-involved traffic crash shenanigans: The speeding Glendale police officer who wiped out people on the sidewalk. The speeding MSCO deputy who became involved in 2013 in a fatal collision in Glendale, a $4M lawsuit grinds on in that case. And a Pinal Co Sheriff’s Deputy who became involved in a fatal collision in 2012 while driving 97mph (and was minutes before going 113 mph)

Holding these dangerous drivers accountable typically is limited to a speeding ticket, in some cases the perpetrator is fired (this particular officer was suspended for a month); and serious charges are rare (I’m not aware of any). Typically, the city or jurisdiction involved ends up shelling out millions$ (taxpayer dollars) in wrongful death settlements.

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