The City of East St. Louis and one of its police officers filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the officer of willful and wanton misconduct when a criminal suspect stole his police car and caused several accidents.
According to the suit filed June 19, Johnnie L. Bosley Jr. claims he suffered a collapsed lung, multiple rib fractures, a lacerated spleen and a lacerated left ear after Ricky Raper stole East St. Louis police officer Rodell Andrews’ squad car and violently collided with Bosley’s vehicle.
Raper stole the police cruiser on Oct. 3, 2012, following an incident at a Metro bus stop. Raper attempted to board a bus around 8:15 a.m., but refused to pay the required bus fee. The bus driver repeatedly told Raper to either pay the fare or leave the bus. Raper was unwilling to do either.
Around 8:30 a.m., Andrews arrived at the scene and parked his police car immediately behind the bus. Andrews allegedly left the car running and the doors unlocked when he boarded the bus and approached Raper, who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the complaint states.
Raper was allowed to leave the bus. He began to walk away from the vehicle but then “approached and entered the unlocked and/or unsecured squad [car],” the suit states. Raper allegedly then put the squad car into drive and “violently collided into the vehicle being driven by Plaintiff.”
According to the motion to dismiss filed on Sept. 6, Andrews and the City of East St. Louis are protected under the Tort Immunity Act, which “provides immunity for public employees in the execution or enforcement of any law,” the motion states.
Under the Tort Immunity Act, “a public employee serving in a position involving the determination of policy or the exercise of discretion is not liable for an injury resulting from his act or omission in determining policy when acting in the exercise of such discretion even though abused.”
More specifically, the Act states that officers cannot be held liable for injuries caused by an escaped or escaping prisoner or any injury caused by the failure to make an arrest or by releasing a person in custody.
The City of East St. Louis exercised its discretion when it determined the manner in which an officer responds to a call and operates a police car. According to the policy for the East St. Louis Police Department, officers are allowed to use their own discretion in making these judgment calls.
The motion defends Andrews saying that he arrived at the scene promptly and didn’t hesitate to board the bus and take care of the problem he was called to control. He handled Raper and got him to leave the bus.
According to Bosley’s complaint, he alleges he was injured as a result of the actions of Raper, a private individual, which would not apply to the defendants, the motion states.
“Plaintiff is attempting to make Defendants responsible for the acts of a fleeing criminal," the motion states. "It is neither willful nor wanton misconduct for police to respond to calls and chase criminals. In the end, it violates sound principles of public policy to hold the Defendants liable for the decisions and actions of criminals.”
Bosley blames Andrews for allowing the accident to occur, saying he failed to shut off the squad car’s engine, failed to remove the keys from the ignition, failed to render the squad car temporarily inoperable prior to exiting the car, failed to lock all of the squad car’s doors after exiting the squad car and failed to otherwise secure the doors.
Bosley also blames the City of East St. Louis for failing to properly instruct Andrews on precautionary measures that must be taken to maintain control of his squad car, failing to ensure that Andrew’s receive proper training and failing to properly supervise Andrews’ precautionary measures taken to ensure the safety of his police car.
Bosely is seeking a judgment of more than $250,000.
Bosely is represented by Michael J. Garavalia of Flynn, Guymon and Garavalia in Belleville.
The City of East St. Louis and Andrews are represented by Michael L. Wagner of Clayborne, Sabo & Wagner, LLP in Belleville.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 13-L-302