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Three St. Louis police officers didn’t cause fatal crash, appeals court rules

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Crash scene at end of police chase in St. Louis on July 24, 2019

The Jeep Cherokee pictured here crashed into a Chevrolet Tracker on July 24, 2019, ending a police chase and killing Reniece Randle, a passenger in the Chevrolet. (Photo courtesy of lawyer Michael Durham.)

JEFFERSON CITY — Three St. Louis police officers did not cause a fleeing drug suspect to crash into a woman’s vehicle, killing her and injuring someone else in 2019, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The decision by the Eastern District Court of Appeals said St. Louis Circuit Judge Christopher McGraugh was correct in dismissing a lawsuit against the city over the crash.

At issue was a chase involving Danny Harris, who was going 54 mph when he struck a car. He ran from the scene but was caught hiding behind a bush.

Jemerio Harris, of St. Louis, and Jacqueline Armstrong, of East St. Louis, sued the city, former police Chief John Hayden and officers James Zwilling, Michael Scego and Timothy Boyce in December 2020, alleging negligence and violations of the police department’s pursuit policy during the pursuit.

Reniece Randle, 37, was killed in the crash; Armstrong, the driver of the vehicle, was injured.

In dismissing the lawsuit, McGraugh said the plaintiffs failed to establish that the police officers caused the drug suspect to crash. The appeals court agreed, saying that the allegations raised in the lawsuit were “supported by mere conjecture and speculations, not facts.”

In outlining the police response to the crash, the appeals court said the nearest police officer was 10-15 seconds away from the suspect in his car when the collision occurred.

“(T)he only conclusion supported by the facts is that Officer Boyce was nowhere near the site of the collision, and that it was suspect’s reckless driving at dangerous speeds and unlawful disregard of traffic signals that caused the collision at issue,” the court said.

Danny Harris, the man who fled police officers, was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, resisting arrest and leaving the scene of a crash.

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