10/16/2007

Family of teen killed in Ind. crash sues police

By Thom Patterson
CNN

GARY, Ind. — The family of Dominique Green, one of two teens killed in a car crash last month in Gary, Indiana, is suing police for $50 million, an attorney said Monday.

Hours after police responded to the September 15 crash and failed to find Green's body and the body of his friend Brandon Smith, 18, Smith's father found both corpses in a nearby wooded area.

The Green family believes if their son had been found earlier, he might have survived.

"We brought this case about to right a justice to my son's injustice," said Green's mother Jacquelyn Green. "He was left down at the bottom of a ravine to die."

The Greens' attorney Ken Allen said he obtained an injunction to preserve all police records and 911 tapes and all other audio recordings associated with the case.

Dominique Green "had a chance to live and that chance was taken from him and his parents by the Gary police," Allen told CNN.

The attorney also said he is filing for court permission to exhume the teen's body, and that the family has hired an independent expert to perform an autopsy.

Allen said an independent expert, in addition to witness accounts, indicate Green's body had bruises, contusions and was swollen -- all signs showing the teen was alive immediately following the crash.

Such a finding would dispute a Lake County, Indiana, coroner's autopsy of the victims that a spokesman said determined Green and Smith died instantaneously of blunt-force injuries.

The Smith family is having an independent autopsy conducted of Brandon's body, from which results are expected soon. The Lake County coroner has not made public its results of toxicology tests on the bodies of Green and Smith.

Allen said Gary Police Chief Thomas Houston is named in the lawsuit as is Officer Jeffery Westerfield, whom police have identified as the first to respond to 911 calls following the crash.

"They're within their rights to file a lawsuit, and all we can do is continue with the investigation," said Cmdr. Sam Roberts, a Gary police spokesman.

The late-night crash prompted a Gary police internal affairs investigation and an independent review of the accident report by the Lake County sheriff.

Smith's father, Arthur Smith, is demanding the resignation of both Houston and Gary Mayor Rudy Clay. Houston has offered his condolences to the victims' families in a public statement.

Survivors Darius Moore and DeAndre Anderson, both 17, said they begged police at the scene to search for their friends who were missing in the crash.

Later, after sunrise, Smith's father was the first to find the bodies of his son and Green in a wooded area near the crash site.

Police have said blood-alcohol tests of the surviving teens, including Moore, who was driving, showed levels of .05 and .09 percent. Because they are minors, authorities have not said which result was Moore's.

Moore has denied that any of the four teens in the car that night had been drinking. Indiana, which has a legal drinking age of 21, has a legal blood alcohol threshold of .08 percent.

Police have said Moore and Anderson may have told authorities at the scene they had dropped off Green and Smith before the crash, prompting authorities to suspect the missing teens weren't at the accident site.

"I never told them that I dropped them off," Moore said, "and DeAndre never told them that neither."

Police radio dispatch tapes released last month revealed officers discussed the possibility that Smith and Green might be at the scene.

Moore said police "didn't look for them. They didn't see them. They didn't go down there to look to see if they were down there."

Copyright 2007 CNN

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