Fairfax, Va., Judge Rejects Immunity for Former Officer in Fatal Car Crash
Thursday, August 13, 2009
A Fairfax County judge ruled Wednesday that a Fairfax police officer who hit and killed another driver last year is not entitled to immunity in the civil suit filed by the dead woman's family.
The ruling by Fairfax Circuit Court Judge R. Terrence Ney was a significant legal victory for the family of Ashley McIntosh, 33, the teacher's assistant whose car entered a Route 1 intersection on a green light and was broadsided by then-Officer Amanda R. Perry. McIntosh was thrown from her car and killed.
Perry, 23, was not in court for Ney's ruling, and she is no longer a Fairfax police officer. She resigned in March after police alleged that she had been embezzling from the department by falsifying time and attendance records while she was on administrative duties in the year after the Feb. 12, 2008, crash. She has not been charged in that case.
Perry was found not guilty of reckless driving in a criminal trial last year in Fairfax County General District Court. But a host of new facts, disclosed Tuesday during a hearing on Perry's attempt to invoke "sovereign immunity" for her actions, helped convince Ney that she can be found liable for simple negligence at a civil trial scheduled for February.
Among the new disclosures:
-- Testimony showed that although Perry was initially dispatched to a fistfight in progress, callers promptly alerted police that the participants had gone back inside a Beacon Hill area grocery and, then, that the incident wasn't a fight at all but the capture of a shoplifter. But Perry continued to drive on Route 1 at more than the 45 mph speed limit without checking for updates on the incident, and she failed to turn on her siren before running a red light at Boswell Avenue and slamming into McIntosh's Toyota Corolla.
-- Perry told the judge that she considered the fight call an emergency because someone could have been seriously hurt. But she acknowledged that she did not use her emergency lights or siren for several miles en route to the call, in violation of Fairfax police policy. She said she could not get her siren to function in the moments before reaching Boswell Avenue.
-- A veteran police officer who trained Perry testified that Fairfax policy dictates that if emergency equipment such as a siren is not operating, officers are to pull over immediately and excuse themselves from the call. Perry did not do that.