The victims of a 2020 police chase are suing over what they say was a needless tragedy.
Steven and Maribeth Klein and the estate of Raymond and Gayle Laible filed suit Wednesday against the City of Cincinnati and three Cincinnati Police Department officers, among others, who they say recklessly contributed to deaths and injuries last year.
Through five counts, the lawsuit alleges personal injury, wrongful death, negligence in supervision and training, negligent entrustment, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
The lawsuit claims that Cincinnati Police Department sergeant Timothy Lanter and officer Brett Thomas pursued Mason Meyer through the streets of Cincinnati on Aug. 7, 2020, before moving to Covington and Newport via the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge. CPD sergeant Donald Scalf authorized Lanter and Thomas to continue the high-speed pursuit from Ohio into Kentucky, the lawsuit says.
Meyer, who also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was being investigated for selling guns at the time of the chase.
Once in Newport, the suit says, Meyer's vehicle "jumped the curb at high speed, striking Raymond and Gayle Laible, who had been dining on a sidewalk patio of Press, and throwing Steven and Maribeth Klein, who were walking on the sidewalk, several yards onto the concrete." The actions killed the Laibles and injured the Kleins.
"Our family is heartbroken. We are shocked that the CPD allowed this chase to happen and are horrified that these officers are still on the streets. We don’t want any other family to experience a loss as we have," Angela Endress, the Laibles' daughter, says in a statement this week. "The CPD has to make sure that its officers don’t needlessly cause the death of even one more person. We have seen Cincinnati police engage in too many reckless pursuits. We hope through this lawsuit to change that practice and make the city safer."
From the lawsuit:
81. At approximately 4:30PM on Friday, August 7, 2020, Raymond and Gayle Laible were dining on the sidewalk patio of a cafe at the corner of Fifth Street and Monmouth Avenue in Newport, Kentucky.
82. Plaintiffs Steven and Maribeth Klein were walking together on the sidewalk near the corner of 5th Street and Monmouth Avenue.
83. Meyer’s vehicle, traveling at high speed, ran the red light at the corner of Fifth Street and Monmouth Avenue in Newport, and crashed into the sidewalk and the outdoor dining area of the restaurant Press on Monmouth.
Meyers then encountered the Laibles and the Kleins:
84. Meyer’s vehicle jumped the curb at high speed and struck Raymond and Gayle Laible, causing their deaths.
85. As Meyer crashed into the Laibles, the impact and debris of that collision struck Steven and Maribeth Klein, throwing them several yards onto the concrete, and causing severe physical injuries.
86. At the time of the crash, Defendant Lanter was still fully and actively engaged in the high-speed pursuit of Meyer, with lights and sirens on, and was only approximately half a block behind Meyer’s vehicle, which was fully visible to Lanter. (Thomas Cruiser Cam 07:40- 07:43).
87. At the time of the crash, Defendant Thomas was also still fully and actively engaged in the high-speed pursuit of Meyers and was approximately one block behind Meyer’s vehicle, which was fully visible to Thomas. (Thomas Cruiser Cam at 07:40-07:43).
88. Plaintiffs Steven and Maribeth Klein observed the tragic incident occur and were themselves struck by debris from the violent collision.
The lawsuit shares the aftermath:
89. Gayle Laible was pronounced dead at the scene.
90. Raymond Laible was transported to a Cincinnati hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
91. Maribeth Klein almost lost a toe as a result of this crash and suffered severe road rash from the hip down along with injuries to her left shoulder, left wrist, stomach, right knee and hands and other injuries.
92. Steven Klein had severe road rash and injuries to his collar bone, left ankle, left toe, and right elbow and other injuries.
The plaintiffs say that during the chase, Lanter, Thomas and Meyer all reached speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, drove down one-way streets and ran red lights. The lawsuit also says that Lanter and Thomas did not follow CPD procedure to notify Scalf of their high speeds or that Meyer hit a vehicle. The officers knowingly pursued Meyer despite "obvious and actualized danger" to pedestrians and other motorists, the suit claims.
The Cincinnati Police Department's Internal Investigation Section initiated a review after the Aug. 7, 2020 chase, finding that Lanter and Thomas had violated CPD rules.
Lanter also had been involved in previous high-speed chases and crashes, including ones where he was at fault, the lawsuit alleges. It also says that Lanter had been disciplined previously for failure to "operate official vehicles in a careful and prudent manner" in accordance with CPD procedures.
The lawsuit also names Austin Legory, the owner of the car that Meyers was driving with permission, and Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of America, the Kleins' insurance company, as defendants in the suit.
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