Appeals Court Dismisses Case Against City Involving Pedestrian Killed by DPD Officer

On June 6, 2006, this item appeared in the regional roundup found in the Metro section of The Dallas Morning News:

Authorities have identified a woman fatally struck by a Dallas police car Saturday night as 51-year-old Patricia Ann Brooks. Police said Officers Juan Rangel and Susan Kreun were driving south on Robert B. Cullum Boulevard about 9:40 p.m. to assist other officers when Ms. Brooks, who was crossing the street, was hit. The police car's lights and siren were not on. Officials were waiting for the results of the accident investigation to determine what, if any, action will be taken with the officers involved. Neither officer was injured.

That incident would result in a lawsuit that, only yesterday, was dismissed by the Texas Fifth Court of Appeals. The reason, according to the justices: The city is immune from prosecution in this instance, despite what the trial court ruled.

The city long ago removed Rangel from the suit, insisting the officer was doing nothing more than his job -- racing to help a fellow officer in possible trouble due to a "a combative, suicidal person" in the 5200 block of South Lamar. Rangel, who'd once patrolled that part of town, would say in his affidavit that driving a little faster than posted speed limits down that normally isolated stretch of Cullum at that time of night wasn't risky. Not at all. He just didn't see Brooks because she was clad almost entirely in black and crossing without a crosswalk; she'd just appeared out of nowhere. Other officers would later note that driving 50 in a 35 is also far from unheard-of: "In the city of Dallas, the normal flow of traffic on a regular basis tends to be above the speed limit."

Which meant nothing to Nakita and Simian Brooks, who filed the suit, or the trial court, which, after two hearings on the subject, ruled that the suit could proceed, despite the city's claim of sovereign immunity.

The appeals court disagrees: Yesterday's opinion notes that Rangel -- who received the department's medal of valor in January following the November shootout at a Pleasant Grove apartment complex -- is "a reasonably prudent officer" who was acting in "good faith." Case dismissed.

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