Originally created 07/09/02

City settles suit over chase death



The family of a young woman killed during a police chase in Swainsboro last year has settled a lawsuit against the city and the officer involved.

The settlement amount was not released as part of a confidentiality agreement between family members of LaShunda Freeman and the city. However, the city is insured by the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency for $1 million.

Marc Treadwell, the family's Macon-based attorney, would not discuss the amount but did say the figure was substantial.

"The settlement is structured in a way that her son will be well taken care of for the rest of his life," Mr. Treadwell said about Ms. Freeman's 4-year-old son, Laquaves, who is in the custody of his grandmother Brenda Freeman. "(Swainsboro officials) realized that they had a serious problem and dealt with it appropriately."

The incident happened June 4, 2001, after Ms. Freeman, 20, accepted a motorcycle ride from Tracy Allen, who was also killed in the crash. According to Swainsboro Police Officer Lanier Griswold's statement to the Georgia State Patrol, he gave chase after clocking the motorcycle doing 66 mph in a 35 mph zone.

However, the department's Standard Operating Procedures manual states that pursuit is justified "only when the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the violator presents a clear and immediate threat to the public or the officer, has committed or is attempting to commit a serious felony, or when the need to apprehend the violator outweighs the level of danger created by the pursuit."

The lawsuit, filed in March, contended that the chase met none of those conditions.

Questions about the chase were raised after an investigation by The Augusta Chronicle. A July 29 article revealed that Officer Griswold had been reprimanded a year earlier for another high-speed chase.

Donald Jenkins, Swainsboro's mayor pro tem, who was involved in the lawsuit's mediation, said the incident has led officials to restructure the police department's chain of command for better efficiency.

An internal review of the incident cleared Officer Griswold of any wrongdoing except for not contacting his immediate supervisor after the incident.

Mr. Jenkins said he is satisfied with the settlement.

"The family are truly unbelievable people in that they were not out for vengeance or to punish people for the loss of LaShunda," Mr. Jenkins said. "They were about securing the future of her child, and they got that."

Reach Mike Wynn at (706) 823-3218 or mwynn@augustachronicle.com.