Crime & Courts

Cop crash may cost city of Wichita $300,000

A police car en route to an emergency call smashed into a Saturn coupe last December, killing the coupe's 30-year-old driver, Christopher Perkins.

Perkins' family filed a negligence claim, and today Wichita City Council members will vote on whether to settle the case for $300,000.

"Because of the uncertainty and risk that a judgment at trial would exceed this amount, the Law Department recommends acceptance of the offer," a city report about the settlement says. "The settlement of this claim does not constitute an admission of liability on the part of the City or the officers. Rather, it is merely a settlement to resolve a long disputed claim."

Meanwhile, the police officer involved in the wreck, Garrett Shaddix, faces a jury trial in January for vehicular homicide, according to court records. It's a misdemeanor charge.

Shaddix remains on active duty, but he is no longer in a patrol position, said Kelly Rundell, senior assistant city attorney.

It is city policy to wait for the results of a civil or criminal trial before starting an internal investigation.

Shaddix was one of two officers driving south on Hydraulic en route to a 911 call of shots being fired in the 2300 block of MacArthur around 9 p.m. Dec. 13 last year. The patrol cars did not have their lights and sirens activated, which is in accordance with police policy.

Meanwhile, Perkins was driving north on Hydraulic in a Saturn coupe. He let the first patrol car pass, but then tried to turn left onto El Monte and was hit by Shaddix's patrol car.

Perkins wasn't wearing a seat belt. He was pronounced dead at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.

Patrol cars have something similar to the black boxes on airplanes that can show the speed and how maneuverable the vehicle was at the time of a collision. The speed limit for southbound traffic on that stretch of Hydraulic is 40 mph.

Given the nature of the 911 call, Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said in prior interview in mid-December last year, "the officers would be pushing it" in regard to the speed limit.

But another Eagle article reported that investigators for the Kansas Highway Patrol, which conducted an investigation of the crash, were unable to pull data about the crash from the black box for Shaddix's car because the engine continued to run afterward and the data was overwritten.

Lawyers for Shaddix and the Perkins family could not be reached Monday.

This is the second large settlement of police-related cases in recent months.

In November, the city council approved a $925,000 payment to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who suffered internal injuries during his 2006 arrest.

City Manager Robert Layton announced he would revive a 9-member citizen review board to examine major complaints against police a couple days before the council voted on that settlement.

In its quarterly meetings, the board will review professional standards, allegations of excessive use of force, racial profiling and policies and procedures in the Police Department.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle