Ohio police sued for leaving drunken driver at Taco Bell shortly before he was killed

CINCINNATI – The family of a drunken man has filed a lawsuit against the Ohio police officers who picked 22-year-old Uriel Juarez-Popoca and dropped him off at a Taco Bell prior to him being hit by a car and dying as a result.

On 8th of January, the lawsuit was filed against the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, several of the agency’s deputies and an officer with the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The family accused the authorities of racial discrimination.

A lawyer for the patrolman said the discrimination allegations are foolish and that the officers gave Juarez-Popoca a great chance by letting him go.

Al Gerhardstein, the Cincinnati lawyer representing Juarez-Popoca’s family said that proceeds from any settlement in the case or a jury trial will go to the wife, 2 children and parents of Juarez-Popoca who had become financially dependent on remittance checks they obtained from Juarez-Popoca.

The incident which happened on the night of 28th of July 2012 is unchallenged that Juarez-Popoca was driving under the influence of alcohol on Interstate 71 in Sunbury when he was stopped in a grassy median. Deputies responded to the call of the witness and found Juarez-Popoca sitting in his truck and he was showing clear signs of intoxication. According to the lawsuit, the deputies should have checked Juarez-Popoca’s BAC level and they should have arrested him or released him to a family member or a sober friend pending charges. Instead, they dropped him off at a Taco Bell restaurant about 5 miles away.

While walking along a nearby four-lane highway, he was killed by a car which hit him.

Gerhardstein told The Associated Press, “This stands out as a truly outrageous failure by local law enforcement to do their basic duty of holding people safely. It’s just a really sick joke, a tragic joke”.

According to the lawsuit, the deputies placed Juarez-Popoca in danger by leaving him at the fast-food restaurant along a highway and they didn’t take proper action after receiving a lot of calls about him from the store manager and drivers along the highway within the time period of 50 minutes.

Sam Shamansky, lawyer representing the Ohio state patrolman, said that the authorities were not discriminating against him and his death was a tragedy. He said, “There’s no discrimination here. If you ask me, it could just as easily be said that deputies were giving him a major break by not taking him to jail, maybe in order to not have discriminatory actions taken against him, vis-a-vis deportation. As an observer trying to be independent, I would suggest that’s way more plausible than that they were discriminating against him because he’s Hispanic”.

Christopher Hughes and Derek Beggs were fired due to this case. Patrolman Sean Carpenter was also fired but he won an appeal for that decision and was reinstated.

Beggs was found guilty of dereliction of duty by the jury and he was fined $500. Carpenter was also found guilty of dereliction of duty but court found that “no rational trier of fact could have found that (he) acted negligently”. Hughes pleaded no contest to a charge of failure to help a law enforcement officer and was ordered to pay $20 by the jury.

Delaware County Sheriff Russ Martin wrote in the firing letter of 2 deputies that they had showed “a lack of maturity and professionalism. A fundamental duty as a law enforcement officer should be the preservation of life and inherent in that is the obligation to put a citizen in a better place than where he or she was found — even if that place is in custody for their own safety or the safety of others”.

News Source: www.cleveland.com

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