$4 million suit filed over death of firefighter
The parents of a late Basehor firefighter have filed a federal lawsuit against Leavenworth County seeking at least $4 million.
Patrick and Marlene Moore, parents of the late Jared Moore, filed the wrongful death claim Dec. 27 -- a day before the one-year anniversary of their son's death.
In addition to the county, the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., names five individuals as defendants: three county commissioners, Sheriff Dave Zoellner and sheriff's deputy Robert Peterman. It alleges the county officials "created the dangerous circumstances that allowed defendant Peterman to inflict deadly force on Jared Moore."
Moore, 19, was a probationary firefighter for Fairmount Township at the time of his death on Dec. 28, 2004. He was traveling to the scene of an accident in his civilian vehicle, which was struck from behind by Peterman, who also was responding to the scene.
The lawsuit alleges Peterman violated department protocol and that his reckless actions led to Moore's death. Peterman was charged by the Leavenworth County attorney with vehicular homicide, but later was acquitted by a jury.
The lawsuit also alleges the county "had a policy and practice of not properly training its deputies for, and of not supervising, their high-speed operation of county vehicles."
"This policy and practice, even if officially unauthorized, was widespread in a manner so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom and practice with the force of law" and amounted to "at least deliberate indifference to plaintiffs and Jared Moore's constitutional rights," the lawsuit said.
In addition, the lawsuit said Peterman was "greatly exceeding the posted speed limit" at the time of the accident; was not operating the siren on his patrol car; and did not know exactly where he was headed.
"During the Kansas Highway Patrols' investigation at the scene of Jared's fatality vehicle accident, Defendant Peterman told county authorities, 'I screwed up,'" the lawsuit said.
In addition, it said Peterman, who had worked for the sheriff's department for four years, "wrecked three other Sheriff's Department vehicles before crashing the Department's cruiser into the back of Jared Moore's care on Dec. 28, 2004. Defendant Peterman has not been returned to duty behind the wheel of a Sheriff's Department vehicle after Jared's death."
The suit also alleges members of the sheriff's department began "tailing" Patrick and Marlene Moore as retribution for making public statements condemning Peterman for his role in the accident.
"Given the nature of how their son had been killed -- rear ended by a Leavenworth County Sheriff's patrol car -- the Moore's felt physically threatened as well as harassed by these actions," the lawsuit reads.
It adds, "the Moores felt that speaking out further on how and why Jared died and why the county and its agents were legally responsible for Jared's fatal injuries and wrongful death would lead to further threatening and harassing conduct," by the department.
"The actions by the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department were designed and intended to intimidate Jared Moore's parents and to chill their exercise of First Amendment and counterpart state constitutional rights to speak out on matters of public concerns."