Family of crash victim files $40 million suit against city, officer

April 06, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

The mother of a 27-year-old motorcycle driver killed during a high-speed police chase last year filed a $40 million lawsuit Wednesday against the city and the officer who struck her son, alleging that the officer ignored orders to end the pursuit and lied about how the crash occurred.

The lawsuit comes after a lengthy investigation report, prepared by the Maryland State Police, concluded that Baltimore Officer Timothy Everett Beall was "told to end the chase" and that he acknowledged the command, turning "off his lights and siren." Yet he still followed the driver, Haines Holloway-Lilliston, onto an Interstate 695 exit ramp, ramming into the back of the motorcycle while distracted by his telephone and radio communications, the report said.

Beall, 32, told investigators that Holloway-Lilliston "crashed out in front of him" and that the cruiser never collided with the bike. But Maryland State Police Sgt. John McGee concluded that such an "account of the collision could not have occurred as it would defy the laws of physics."

Holloway-Lilliston, who was pronounced dead at the scene, bounced off the police car's hood.

Attorney William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr., who represents plaintiff Connie Holloway-Johnson in the civil lawsuit, provided a copy of the state police report to The Baltimore Sun.

"This death wasn't caused by any reckless conduct on [the motorcyclist's] part," Murphy said. "This death was caused by the officer."

City Solicitor George Nilson said his office will file a motion to remove the mayor and City Council from the case; they're named as defendants because they technically own the police vehicle. He said the city will likely foot the bill for the officer's defense and could end up paying for any judgment against him.

"Sometimes the city, depending on the nature of the evidence and the circumstances … would cover the outcome," Nilson said, pointing to another of Murphy's clients, Albert Mosley, who was paralyzed after a city officer threw him against a jail cell wall.

In 2006, a jury awarded Mosley $44 million, which was later reduced to about $19 million. He ultimately settled with the city payment for a little less than $2 million, in part because the officer didn't have the money to pay the judgment, Nilson said.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment on the lawsuit, which he had not seen. But he said that the Police Department will investigate the incident to determine whether Beall, a 10-year veteran who's been on desk duty since the crash, will face administrative charges.

"This case is still open," Guglielmi said.

Last month, Scott D. Shellenberger, the state's attorney in Baltimore County, where the crash occurred, said he would not press criminal charges against Beall, saying in a letter to the state police that there was not "sufficient evidence to sustain charges of manslaughter by automobile."

In a statement, Connie Holloway-Johnson said her family was "hurt and disappointed in the decision not to charge the officer with a crime," and that members will seek justice through the civil lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Sitting in Murphy's office shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Holloway-Johnson said she has been "distraught" since the July crash and overwhelmed by grief. "I'm just so emotional," she said. "He was my youngest son."

She described Holloway-Lilliston, who taught physical education at Lockerman Bundy Elementary School, as a fun-loving, "people person" who was "the glue" holding the younger generation of the Holloway family together.

Her middle son, Quincy Holloway, said he used to talk with his little brother daily and was devastated by the loss. "Not to have that anymore is [traumatic]," Holloway said, flanked by family members.

Holloway-Lilliston, who also worked as security at a city nightclub, was on his way home from work in the early morning of July 25, 2010, his family said.

He was illegally driving a friend's unregistered motorcycle without the required operator's license, according to Maryland State Police. And it wasn't his first time, court records show. Holloway-Lilliston was cited in April for driving without a license, though the charges were dropped a few weeks before the crash.

About 2 a.m. July 25. Holloway-Lilliston allegedly got into a race with a passenger car and was soon spotted by Beall in the city, driving northbound on Interstate 83. The officer gave chase, driving at speeds up to 75 mph, he told investigators, but slowing down after they both exited onto I-695 eastbound.

Beall said he was told to end the chase when he entered a construction zone and that he complied, turning off his emergency equipment just as he passed the exit for York Road. He took the Dulaney Valley Road exit, he told the state police, intending to return to Baltimore.

"Mr. Lilliston entered the exit ramp ahead of Officer Beall," McGee wrote in his report, concluding that Beall followed "while his attention was divided between driving, talking with [Maryland State Police] 911 and communicating on his police radio."

The officer was driving faster than Holloway-Lilliston, who had slowed to comply with the ramp's 30-mph limit, McGee wrote, and Beall "failed to maintain a safe and proper following distance when he collided into the rear of the motorcycle."

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

    Baltimore Sun Articles
    |
    |
    |
    Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.