City approves settlement with family of girl killed by police cruiser

06/25/2013 10:08 AM

06/25/2013 10:08 AM

Wichita City Council members approved without comment Tuesday a $300,000 settlement with the family of a 12-year-old girl struck and killed by a police cruiser in 2012.

Suhani Bhakta was darting across South Broadway near her home when she was struck and killed just before 7 p.m. Feb. 12, 2012, by a patrol car driven by Officer Atlee Vogt.

Bhakta’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city in December, saying Vogt was speeding and driving without lights and sirens when the accident occurred.

The settlement, which is not an admission of liability on the part of the city, will be paid by the city’s self-insurance fund and may require the issuance of general obligation bonds, according to city documents.

Suhani’s family contended in the lawsuit that the city was negligent in department policy and in training, supervising and retaining Vogt.

The Kansas Highway Patrol, which investigated the accident, concluded that Vogt’s patrol car was traveling between 39 and 51 mph in a 30 mph zone, with no sirens or emergency lights.

In response to the lawsuit, the police department denied that Vogt was speeding or negligent, contending that the officer was on his way to a burglary at an automotive business, and that he followed department policy by approaching the burglary without emergency lights and sirens.

In addition, the department said, Vogt hard-braked before hitting the girl and an approaching SUV may have obstructed his view as the girl ran into the street.

Vogt has been named in a second lawsuit, filed in May by Juan M. Santiago. It alleges Vogt was negligent in a high-speed chase when a fleeing driver ran a red light and struck Santiago, leaving him with internal injuries and fractured bones.

Wichita police policy allows officers to speed only with lights and sirens, which are reserved for specific emergencies.

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