Law enforcement authorities in Las Vegas and Clark County have strict rules and procedures when it comes to pursuing fleeing vehicles. These regulations are designed to protect not only the officers involved, but also other motorists and passersby. Unfortunately, the actions of one Metro police officer during a police pursuit might have resulted in devastating consequences.
This past week, Officer Aron Carpenter appeared in court on two felony charges of reckless driving. Carpenter is accused of causing a multi-vehicle pileup after he slammed his patrol vehicle into the back of a suspect’s car during a car chase. The car spun across the median and into oncoming traffic.
In May of 2011, Carpenter was pursuing DUI suspect Ivan Carillo northbound on Lamb Boulevard in Las Vegas. Although Metro’s duty sergeant called off the police pursuit on three separate occasions, Carpenter still crashed into Carillo’s car, sending it into the southbound lanes. In the ensuing accident, the suspected drunk driver was killed.
There are several facts still in dispute, including whether Carpenter sped up before impact and to what extent if any that Carillo was intoxicated. So a ruling on the felony charges facing Carpenter likely won’t be made until this week at the earliest.
But aside from the pending criminal charges, this case carries ramifications for future civil lawsuits as well. If Carpenter is found guilty, it could affect any case brought by Carillo’s heirs if they were to seek damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Even if evidence reveals that Carillo was indeed drunk, a judge or jury could still award compensation to Carillo’s family members. In addition, anyone who was hurt in the resulting accident would have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit as well.
Few people have sympathy for drunk drivers or individuals who goad police into a potentially dangerous car chase. But when authorities don’t act appropriately during a police pursuit, people can get injured or killed – and the law provides for relief in a civil court for those affected.