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Family sues police officer, Wichita city for child's death

The city of Wichita and a member of the city's police department are defendants in a lawsuit. The wrongful death complaint was filed by the parents of a girl who died last winter after being struck by an officer's work vehicle.

The lawsuit alleges the officer and his employer, the city of Wichita, were guilty of negligence. According to court papers, the officer was speeding toward a burglary scene long after dark without the use of emergency sirens or lights.

Wichita police defended the officer's actions in the days after the fatality. Officials said the department's policy permitted the responder to drive without activated sirens or lights in certain circumstances. The burglary alarm was apparently categorized as a situation that allowed the officer to forego being highly visible.

City police also stated they were searching for an SUV that might have blocked the officer's view of the 12-year-old girl as she entered the street in front of a motel, her home and family's business. Skid marks revealed the officer attempted to stop.

The child was struck at a negligently excessive speed of up to 51 mph, according to a report by the Kansas Highway Patrol. The speed limit along the Sedgwick County road is 30 mph.

Wrongful death damages of more than $75,000 are sought on charges the officer was inattentive, drove faster than visibility permitted and did not keep a proper look out. The complaint stated the officer also violated Wichita Police Department policy.

The plaintiffs' attorney claimed the seventh grader would have survived had the officer activated the warning sound and flashing lights on the patrol car.

Emergency responders and certain other government employees are often immune from personal injury and wrongful death claims because of the nature of their work. A civil court will determine whether the officer's actions constituted negligence and whether any negligence was outside the bounds of state immunity laws.

Source:, "Parents sue over Wichita police car hitting, killing girl," Tim Potter, Dec. 27, 2012

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