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City is fighting lawsuit about woman's death

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The city of Augusta is battling a wrongful-death lawsuit in Georgia appellate courts this month.

The city's attorney intends to ask the Georgia Supreme Court to hear its appeal after lower courts refused to throw out a lawsuit filed against the sheriff in Richmond County Superior Court.

The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled recently that Judge Sheryl B. Jolly was correct to deny the sheriff sovereign immunity in the case.

Rosa Rita Lovett filed suit against Sheriff Ronnie Strength alleging his department is responsible for the March 1, 2008, death of her sister.

Laura Felder -- a single mother -- was killed when a young man fleeing a sheriff deputy crashed into the vehicle she was in.

Jolly ruled last October that Strength wasn't entitled to sovereign immunity -- the legal provision that protects nearly all acts of government employees. The ruling means a jury should decide whether the deputy acted with reckless disregard for proper law enforcement procedures.

Deputy Anthony Gregory pulled Jamie Ray Clark over on Broad Street the night of March 1, 2008, for running a stop sign. Gregory was preparing traffic citations when Clark took off in his Chevrolet Blazer. Gregory was holding Clark's license.

The chase covered more than four miles at speeds of at least 90 mph as the officer observed Clark pass other vehicles and run traffic signals before colliding with the vehicle driven by Felder's boyfriend.

Before the crash, Gregory radioed his supervisor, who ordered Gregory to stop the pursuit immediately. After the crash, Gregory said he didn't hear that order, according to court documents.

The supervisor and another officer testified in sworn statements that Gregory could have missed the order if the radio channel was busy or he was in an area with poor radio reception.

The sheriff's office has a policy that requires officers to weigh factors in deciding whether to engage in a pursuit. Factors to consider include the seriousness of the offense and the danger to the officer and to others during a pursuit.

The policy also advises officers to consider abandoning a pursuit if it reaches a populated area where an unreasonable danger to the public is created, or if the suspect can be identified for arrest later.

The city argued on appeal that there is no evidence that Clark wouldn't have caused the fatal crash if the deputy hadn't been in pursuit.

That argument, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled, should have been raised first with the trial court. The appellate court ordered the case returned to Richmond County for a ruling on that issue.

The city filed notice Monday that it will ask the Georgia Supreme Court permission for another appeal in the state's highest court.

Deaths blamed on city worker

The Georgia Court of Appeals has another wrongful-death case against the city to decide.

An opinion could be reached within a few months in the joined civil lawsuits filed by the parents of Ryan Holt and Michelle Borror.

The couple died in a fire Aug. 22, 2006. The families of Holt and Borror say that the city's chief electrical inspector, Lewis Vann, failed to do a routine reconnection inspection to check for safety violations but still gave Georgia Power the authority to restore electricity to a 37-year-old trailer Aug. 1, 2006.

The city, which has acknowledged that Vann didn't go inside the home, says he wasn't required to do so, and the cause of the fire hasn't been determined.

According to an attorney for the victims' families, someone used plastic tape to connect a kitchen light instead of a hardened, plastic "wiring nut," and the error triggered the fire.

-- From staff reports

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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 07/30/11 - 02:19 am
0
0
Deputies and Sheriff's should

Deputies and Sheriff's should NOT in any way shape or form be held accountable for the actions of the criminal. First, this deputy was perusing as is standard procedure. If the pursuit lasted less than 4 miles and reached speeds of 90mph, then it lasted less than 3 minutes. The deputy did notify dispatch of the pursuit but failed to hear the supervisor call it off which during this intense 3 minutes is highly possible. Either way, the Sheriff had good policies and procedures in place so he nor the department should be sued nor should a deputy trying to do their best to do their job. Sovereign immunity was designed for a good reason and it certainly should always apply except in cases of willful negligence.

Stop pursuing criminals and more criminals will run. Furthermore, as stated, who is to say the criminal would have stopped on his own, slowed down or whatever. Police are not mind readers and can not see into the future and if they let criminals run from them without giving chase who is to say that more people wouldn't end up dead in the long run because we certainly know that murderers, rapists, etc. will all run.

Hold the driver of the vehicle responsible, period. However, in the USA it is all about the money so the trial lawyers will go wherever they think they can get the most no matter what is right.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/30/11 - 03:36 am
0
0
Where are Clark and his

Where are Clark and his insurance company in this mess?

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 07/30/11 - 07:51 am
0
0
i hope the sheriff's
Unpublished

i hope the sheriff's department can be sued into following orders and policies. right now there's a lot of disregard for citizen safety. i'd also like to see a class lawsuit from all the disorderly conductors who've been in jail without breaking a law. penny pinchers, you guys should lead that one.

agustinian
689
Points
agustinian 07/30/11 - 08:09 am
0
0
This list of innocent

This list of innocent bystanders killed as a result of high-speed police chases is a long one throughout the nation (360 per year). These chases are adrenalin charged affairs for the cop as well as the miscreant. The police should adopt a no chase policy unless there is a clear and present danger to the public safety (terrorism, gun wielder, hostage, etc.). The bad guy will be eventually caught, especially with the vehicle's identity and license known to the police.

Do the public a favor, don't put our life at risk because you want to "show the criminal" he can't run from you. Think it through, they can run, but they can't hide.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 07/30/11 - 08:19 am
0
0
this is the problem with not
Unpublished

this is the problem with not paying our cops enough. we underpay the good ones so of course lose many of them and attract young guys who take the job for the thrill and gun and car and badge who wouldn't dream of turning down a chase, fight or gunfire. compare the rcso not wanting any responsibility in this to another story online here of two soldiers in a car with a wheel coming off. the passenger with no seat belt died and the driver is being charged among other things for failure to stay in his lane. (was it rcso charging him?) cops seems to find blame in everyone but themselves.

Riverman1
84272
Points
Riverman1 07/30/11 - 08:30 am
0
0
Don't even get me started on

Don't even get me started on this subject again. I have posted statistics ad nausea that high speed chases are inherently dangerous to the public and to the OFFICER. They rarely result in the apprehension of serious criminals. Most who run are not committing felonies. Almost 50% of the chases will result in someone being injured. Where police policies have been changed to stop high speed chases, such as Orlando, there is no increase in runners. Law abiding citizens don't suddenly decide to become runners if they know there is a no high speed chase policy.

The only one with any sense in this chase was the supervisor who told the officer to stop the pursuit.

Riverman1
84272
Points
Riverman1 07/30/11 - 08:28 am
0
0
I'll never forget the common

I'll never forget the common sense displayed by the officer a few years ago on Broad St. when the guy jumped in his car and took off.

In that case, it appeared the supervisor wanted a chase, but the officer said over the radio something like: "The guy is not wanted for anything. We have his license number. We can pick him up tomorrow."

That's exactly what they did and no one was injured.

billyjones1949
1
Points
billyjones1949 07/30/11 - 09:15 am
0
0
I vote for no high speed

I vote for no high speed chases. Catching a traffic offender or anykind of criminal is not worth the danger. Catch them later at their home. The driver of the vehicle should be the one getting sued.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/30/11 - 11:33 am
0
0
Routine traffic violation,

Routine traffic violation, deputy had his license in his hand, ordered to stop pursuit, continued on, says he didn't receive it, a woman is killed... it doesn't sound good. The chase takes on a life and a competition of it's own. It would be interesting to know if there were any serious outstanding warrants and more about this officer.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 07/30/11 - 09:29 am
0
0
Billyjones, you are voting

Billyjones, you are voting for a dramatic increase in people running when they know all they have to do is put the hammer down and the cops won't chase.
Now in the cases where they have identities to follow up on, I agree with you 100%. No point in endangering the public when you know where to find them. What is also needed in concert with that are draconian penalties for running. If a guy is looking at a DUI and losing his license vs a mandatory 18 months in jail for felony eluding, I think 98% will choose to stop. If 18 months in prison doesn't scare them, then they are probably worth pursuing because they are fearing far worse.

Riverman1
84272
Points
Riverman1 07/30/11 - 10:00 am
0
0
"Billyjones, you are voting

"Billyjones, you are voting for a dramatic increase in people running when they know all they have to do is put the hammer down and the cops won't chase."

As I said before, that's absolutely NOT TRUE. There are statistics galore from jurisdictions that stopped high speed chases unless there is good evidence a violent felony is taking place and the incidence of runners DID NOT INCREASE.

billyjones1949
1
Points
billyjones1949 07/30/11 - 10:05 am
0
0
Vito45 I just happen to

Vito45 I just happen to believe my life, the life of anyone near the chase and the life of the deputy is worth more than "the catch".

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 07/30/11 - 10:12 am
0
0
So then, what you guys

So then, what you guys believe is that if I am running down Washington Road at breakneck speed and a ColCo LEO wants to give chase to stop me, we can't do that. Really, that is what you are saying because if I'm running 80, the cop has to run 100 to catch up with me to pull me over. We now have two vehicles going down a populated highway at high speed, so in the interst of public safety the cop should just let me continue to blast down Washington Rd.

Ohhh K.....

Riverman1
84272
Points
Riverman1 07/30/11 - 10:19 am
0
0
The fact is a guy will rarely

The fact is a guy will rarely be running 100 mph down Washington Rd. Now what is far more likely is that someone, usually a young person who has not committed a felony, will take off when chased. A high speed chase has about a 45% chance of someone being injured. Pesky facts.

billyjones1949
1
Points
billyjones1949 07/30/11 - 10:28 am
0
0
Vito45, Why not use the

Vito45, Why not use the radio to get help ahead. Going 80 on Washington Rd. would be hard to do unless it was early early in the morning or late late at night. Too much traffic.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/30/11 - 11:35 am
0
0
One can "what if", to avoid

One can "what if", to avoid dealing with "what is".

MsCille
0
Points
MsCille 07/30/11 - 01:51 pm
0
0
This is certainly a tragedy

This is certainly a tragedy and the Sheriff Department should be held accountably. I do not believe the officer didnt hear the radio transmission, not with all the technology law enforcement vehicles have today. If Clark wasnt being chased thru traffic, this wouldnt have occurred. Sometimes, I think it is an adrenalin rush for some officers. I do not think law enforcement should be chasing vehicles in heavy populated traffic, it is not safe for other drivers.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 07/30/11 - 02:39 pm
0
0
This is certainly a tragedy
Unpublished

This is certainly a tragedy and Jamie Ray Clark should be held accountable. I believe that Jamie Ray Clark is responsible for the death of Laura Felder. If Clark hadn't fled from the authorities, this wouldn’t have occurred. Sometimes, I think it is an adrenalin rush for some perpetrators. I do not think law enforcement should be charged when a perpetrator decides to initiate a pursuit.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/30/11 - 04:06 pm
0
0
Pu239, Yes, adrenalin rushes

Pu239, Yes, adrenalin rushes all around. But who do we not only rely upon, but who gets paid a salary to provide for the public's safety, the police or the perpetrators?

A good law enforcement officer must keep the policies, obey direction/orders, practice self control and keep the public's interest above his own. It was a foolish decision on his part.

I do think the book should be thrown at the traffic violator criminally and civilly. Would love to see him sued as well and I am sure her insurance company is already all over that one.

Now, a woman is dead, the city is responsible for payment and the Sheriff has a decision to make.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 07/30/11 - 08:15 pm
0
0
Willow...."The chase covered
Unpublished

Willow...."The chase covered more than four miles at speeds of at least 90 mph as the officer observed Clark pass other vehicles and run traffic signals before colliding with the vehicle driven by Felder's boyfriend." As has been previously stated this would indicate the pursuit lasted less than 4 minutes. We will just have to disagree on who made the foolish decision....Jamie Ray Clark killed Ms. Felder, not Deputy Gregory or Sheriff Strength. Life is much easier in retrospect.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/30/11 - 09:01 pm
0
0
There is that pesky little

There is that pesky little fact of the dispatcher calling him off and without any serious outstanding warrants; there was no reason to over react. He was holding his license/address in his hand; no problem picking him up without all the theatrics that caused an innocent woman's life.
Surely, PO’s are cautioned about the dangers of high speed pursuits as part of their training. As I said earlier, society is depending on peace officers, not the violators to keep the roadways safe.
I never said Sheriff Strength was at fault, just responsible for making decisions regarding the deputy’s accountability from a job prospective As to commenting in retrospect, that’s all we have after a tragedy takes place and most often it is when those prior taught lessons, are truly to be believed. Very sad situation for all concerned. I'm sure the deputy regrets his decision, and would probably not respond the same again. But, still doesn't alter what happened.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/30/11 - 09:26 pm
0
0
Pu239, I am not trying to be

Pu239, I am not trying to be disrespectful to you; you and I just see this differently. You seem to be mostly identifing with the deputy and I am identifying with the woman who lost her life, the mother who lost her child, and the child left without a mother. And I really believe the family deserves financial compensation for their losses. I hope if any money is received, it will be used in trust to provide for the minor child. I wish the best to the deputy as he recovers from this.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 07/30/11 - 10:04 pm
0
0
Willlow...always a good

Willlow...always a good perspective and thoughtful answer.
Bad situation for all involved.

Sentinel
1
Points
Sentinel 07/31/11 - 01:51 am
0
0
To chase or not to chase??? I

To chase or not to chase??? I say chase, unless there is clear evidence that it is a non-violent offender trying to pull a fast one.

When a suspect flees, how do you know there isn't a kidnapped child in the car, or some other victim being taken against their will?

Unless you know for sure that someone else in that vehicle isn't in danger, chase 'em till the tires fall off.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 07/31/11 - 12:08 pm
0
0
Willow...as you stated we
Unpublished

Willow...as you stated we just see things differently...I do identify with the LEO and I think until you have to run towards the bullets, this is a situation most would not understand. I took no disrespect from your comments nor was any intended towards your opinion. This is one of those situations where there is no "pat" answer, and we will just have to agree to disagree.

Sweet son
10429
Points
Sweet son 07/31/11 - 01:30 pm
0
0
@Broad street, what does pay

@Broad street, what does pay have to do with an order to stop or continue the chase? Are you trying to say that the smart deputies go somewhere else and Richmond county deputies are not smart enough to understand 'chase' or 'don't chase?' If I were a current RC Deputy I would be offended.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 07/31/11 - 06:03 pm
0
0
sweet son, i try not to be
Unpublished

sweet son, i try not to be offensive but also to not worry about the whole idea of offensiveness too much. i think i'm being civil when i say not paying cops enough leads us to lose a lot of good cops. same as teachers, accountants, lawyers, whatever. i think without enough pay, the cops that do take or keep the job are either saints who i'm glad walk the earth or young guys who are interested in other aspects and perks of the job, and/or whatever combination of the two. one problem with lots of thrill seeking youngsters and not enough veteran cops is spaz attacks which this chase seems like. fast cars, sirens, guns, authority. that's some heavy stuff. anyone who's seen a cop buddy movie knows the young buck needs to be talked down by some oldies. richmond county needs to pay more for that ideal situation to be the case.

Little Lamb
46096
Points
Little Lamb 07/31/11 - 06:39 pm
0
0
There is a weakness in the

There is a weakness in the argument here. BSNM wrote:

. . . not paying cops enough leads us to lose a lot of good cops. . . .

The trouble is that pesky word enough. How much is too little? How much is too much? How much is enough? There is no right or wrong answer. Enough is subjective.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 07/31/11 - 07:12 pm
0
0
enough to keep good cops. i
Unpublished

enough to keep good cops. i wouldn't call it subjective so much as subject to a formula. "good" cops would be defined by standards of ability (i'd like to see a college degree) and performance, and "enough" money would be defined largely by comparison of pay for other jobs that the "good" cops would be qualified for and pulled away by.

Little Lamb
46096
Points
Little Lamb 07/31/11 - 07:36 pm
0
0
But even weaker is this

But even weaker is this notion. Sandy Hodson wrote:

The city argued on appeal that there is no evidence that Clark wouldn't have caused the fatal crash if the deputy hadn't been in pursuit.

Come on, Fred. You are letting the private law firms suck the taxpayers dry from lawyers' fees in a case that is patently unwinnable. There is no evidence that Clark wouldn't have caused the fatal crash if the deputy hadn't been in pursuit? That is laughable on its face. If that is the best argument the city can muster in appellate court, this case is doomed. And the taxpayer is raped again.

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