City sued for $5 million in traffic death

April 01, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

The parents of an 18-year-old woman killed in a New Year's Day car accident involving a Baltimore police officer have sued the city for $5 million, alleging that the officer did not properly yield at an intersection.

Valerie Lynette Taylor was driving home from a midnight church service when her car was broadsided by a police car driven by Officer Keith N. Devoe, 21, at Orleans and Caroline streets in East Baltimore.

Ms. Taylor's 12-year-old sister, Laurie M. Taylor, suffered head and neck injuries and was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The suit, filed Thursday by Linwood R. and Lillian R. Taylor of Randallstown, says their daughter was driving her 1989 Hyundai about 2:30 a.m. through a green light at the intersection when she was hit by the cruiser, which had its emergency lights and siren on.

"Suddenly, without any warning, a Baltimore City police car negligently driven by defendant Devoe failed to slow his vehicle in response to traffic lawfully in the intersection and proceeded through a red light at a high rate of speed," the suit says.

City police officers are allowed to drive through red lights, but are required to stop first to make sure the intersection is clear of traffic.

Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman, said yesterday that a departmental review found that the officer was at fault in the accident. He added that the state's attorney's office decided not to charge Officer Devoe criminally, but administrative charges are pending.

City Solicitor Neal M. Janey said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had not seen it.

At the time of the accident, police said Officer Devoe, who is assigned to the Eastern District and had been on the force for 20 months, was not responding to a specific call, but had overheard another call on the radio from an officer who needed help.

He suffered a broken leg and head injuries, police said at the time.

The fatal accident came in the middle of an accident crisis for the Police Department, which is averaging more than 500 patrol-car accidents a year. More than half are ruled preventable, and 70 percent of those were caused by officers with less than five years on the force, police officials have said.

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