DETROIT(WWJ) – Three Detroit police officers who were involved in a high-speed chase back in 2015 that left two children dead and four others seriously injured are being sued.
The lawsuit was filed Friday, in Wayne County Circuit Court and in Federal court, on behalf of the victims’ families. The city along with three officers — Richard Billingslea, Steven Fultz and Hakeem Patterson — are named in the suit, which seeks upwards of $75,000 in damages.
According to the lawsuit, Billingslea, Fultz and Patterson pursued the driver of a red Camaro at a high rate of speed through a densely populated residential neighborhood. The chase ended in a crash that killed 6-year-old Michaleangeo Jackson and his three-year-old sister Makiah. Officer Fultz claimed that he witnessed one of the occupants flashing a semiautomatic hand gun, according to the lawsuit, but the alleged gun was never recovered.
The suit accuses the officers of disregarding a Detroit Police Department policy on pursuits, which says such chases should end when “there is clear and present danger to the public which outweighs the need for immediate apprehension of the violator.”
The chase began about 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015 when the officers patrolling a neighborhood near Warren Avenue and East Outer Drive encountered the Camaro.
“The officer reported seeing a weapon which constitutes a felony. Officers can pursue for a weapons offense,” Police Chief James Craig said following the incident.
The chase lasted just 62 seconds and spanned 1.64 miles. Craig said a supervisor reported making several attempts to verbally stop the pursuit, but it’s not clear if the orders were heard over police radio traffic.
The Camaro’s computer confirmed that the vehicle was traveling at over 100 miles per hour, according to the lawsuit.
Craig said officers lost sight of the Camaro before it crashed into the front porch of a home near Frankfurt and Nottingham, where several kids were playing outside. The Jackson siblings were killed and three other children were critically injured, along with a 23-year-old woman.
The lawsuit, however, claims that the cruiser actually bumped the Camaro, which caused the suspect to lose control and strike the Jackson kids, resulting in their deaths. The Camaro continued to careen out of control, the lawsuit claims, until it struck a parked minivan nearly a block away. On the other side of the minivan were three children who suffered severe injuries when the van was forced into them, according to the lawsuit.
Separately, Billingslea is facing felony assault charges. The case comes after an incident recorded on a cell phone camera at Detroit gas station where he is allegedly seen beating and pepper spraying a man.
The city has not commented on the lawsuit.
The suspect driving the Camaro, Lorenzo Harris, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to at least 30 years in prison.