Tuesday, January 15, 2013
The family of a young girl who was struck by a patrol car has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Wichita Police officer and the City of Wichita. Last February’s accident happened near Harry and Broadway.
The official report from the Kansas Highway Patrol shows that officer Atlee Vogt was doing at least 10 to 20 miles over the speed limit when his car hit Suhani Bhakta. Bhakta died of her injuries.
Officer Vogt was responding to a burglary at a nearby auto parts business. It was dark. The only light being from street lights. Vogt was operating within department policy by not using his emergency equipment, but the KHP report says he was going between 39 and 51 miles-per-hour. The posted speed limit is 30.
“The police department and its officers either need to abide by the law and drive by the parameters of the posted speed limits, or they need to operate with their lights and sirens,” said attorney Dustin Devaughn, who filed the lawsuit on behalf othe Bhakta's family.
The crash report goes on to say that the investigation was hindered by officer Vogt’s refusal to speak with the investigator after the crash. The report shows Vogt slowed down before impact, but we don’t know whether it’s because of the approaching intersection or because he saw the girl in the street.
“The reasons why the police department have these policies in place,” Devaughn said. "My clients don't understand it. I don't understand it. I'm willing to believe that the vast majority of the public does not understand why police officers can't operate with lights and sirens.”
It’s also important to note the highway patrol report lists the primary cause of the accident as the girls crossing the street mid-block. There was a crosswalk 200 feet away at the intersection.