The family of a teen who died in a dirt bike crash as he was fleeing Prince George’s police filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county Thursday morning seeking $20 million in damages.
Amir Brooks-Watson, 17, and his cousin were on a green Kawasaki dirt bike in a District Heights apartment complex last week when an officer began pursuing the pair, family and authorities said. The officer had followed the bike with his cruiser’s lights in an attempt to determine whether it was connected to a recent armed robbery, police said.
The incident led police and the bike into the District, where Amir and his cousin crashed into a tree, authorities and family said. The lawsuit said Amir didn’t stop because he and his cousin were scared during the chase.
Amir “and his cousin were afraid that the [officer] was trying to inflict a very serious bodily injury or death upon them,” according to the lawsuit filed in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. The suit also names Grady Management as a defendant in the lawsuit. The company runs the apartment complex where Amir lived and hired the off-duty Prince George’s police officer as a security guard for the property, the complaint states.
“We’re sending a strong message: When you take the lives of our young people illegally, you’re going to have to pay,” said the family’s attorney, Jimmy Bell.
In 2012, Prince George’s police revised its policies after one of its officers died in a crash, limiting pursuits to carjackings, homicides, armed robberies and shootings in which someone was struck.
The suit also claims that the pursuit took the Prince George’s officer about a mile into the District from the county line.
“Prince George’s has no jurisdiction whatsoever a mile into Washington, D.C.,” Bell said.
County officials said they could not comment on the pending litigation, but a statement from the police department said it is “conducting a thorough investigation of the entire incident.”
“We also are continuing to work with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Major Crash Investigations Unit, which is investigating the crash in the District,” the police statement said.
It is illegal to operate dirt bikes in Maryland, but they are a common complaint among residents in the region. In Washington, police ban officers from chasing dirt bikes, despite complaints that riders often ignore traffic laws.