LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The city has reached a $600,000 settlement with the family of 13-year-old Ki'Anthony Tyus, who died in a 2018 pursuit where a Louisville Metro Police officer chased a stolen SUV in which the boy was a passenger before it crashed.
Ki'Anthony's estate will receive the money as part of the settlement in the lawsuit against a teen who was driving the stolen vehicle, LMPD and the pursuing officer, Roger Marcum.
The settlement was confirmed Tuesday by the grandmother's attorney, Sam Aguiar, who has represented the families of several other people killed over the years in Louisville police pursuits.
Ernestine "Tina" Tyus, who raised Ki'Anthony, filed the lawsuit in January 2019 in Jefferson Circuit Court, about a month after the deadly crash.
Ki'Anthony died Dec. 22, 2018, when a Lexus SUV he was riding in crashed into a utility pole on Fern Valley Road while Marcum was in pursuit. Four other teens were in the SUV, which had been reported stolen.
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The SUV's driver, Reco Smith, was 17 at the time and was charged with murder and other offenses in Ki'Anthony's death, with the criminal case ongoing in Jefferson Circuit Court.
The grandmother's lawsuit accused Smith of making a "dangerous and reckless" decision to drive at high speeds through congested parts of Louisville.
And it said Marcum did not follow LMPD's pursuit policy at the time was one of the strictest in the U.S. by forbidding officers from chasing cars unless they suspected a violent felony had been committed or a suspect was wanted for a violent crime.
LMPD's initial statement after the 2018 crash said the driver of the stolen SUV "lost control of the vehicle," striking a utility pole and flipping into a ditch in the 3300 block of Fern Valley Road, which runs between Interstate 65 and Preston Highway.
Dispatch recordings show officers first identified the stolen car in the Old Louisville neighborhood and followed it onto I-65 before two LMPD cruisers crashed while trying to pull it over.
The lawsuit claimed that Marcum and another officer, in separate cruisers, then picked up the chase despite lacking authorization from a commanding officer to continue the pursuit.
Marcum continued to pursue the SUV and eventually slammed his cruiser into the vehicle, causing a "violent crash" that killed Ki'Anthony and wounded several of the other juveniles inside the vehicle, according to the complaint.
"The SUV would not have crashed in the manner which it did and (Ki'Anthony) would not have been killed" had Marcum followed department policy, the lawsuit claimed.
The Jefferson County Attorney's Office, which represented Marcum on behalf of the city, had argued the officer could not be held liable for Ki'Anthony's death because of the qualified immunity afforded to him as a public official and because his actions were not a substantial factor in causing the crash.
Aguiar, the grandmother's attorney, said investigations by LMPD's Public Integrity Unit and Professional Standards Unit exonerated the pursuing officer after concluding he did not violate policy.
Tyus told The Courier Journal after her grandson's death she had warned him of getting into cars with those he did not know well.
"I used to stress to Ki'Anthony, 'Don't let nobody drive you to your death. Don't jump in these cars. You don't know if they're stolen or what,'" the grandmother said. "… And look what happened."
Ki'Anthony's death drew national attention, with rapper Master P paying for the boy's funeral.
Ki'Anthony, who was in the eighth grade at the time of his death, had become an anti-violence activist after he was shot in the leg at age 9 while playing basketball at Ballard Park.
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LMPD quietly rolled back its strict pursuit policy, which former Chief Steve Conrad implemented in 2012 following a string of deadly crashes, starting in 2016.
When tougher restrictions were in place, from around 2013 through 2015, there were no deaths connected to pursuits.
But when LMPD began rolling those restrictions back in the subsequent three years, seven people were killed, according to a Courier Journal investigation.
In addition, injuries suffered by officers, citizens and fleeing suspects during those chases more than doubled.
Roughly six months after the Ki'Anthony's death, Conrad issued a temporary order allowing officers to pursue vehicles that had been confirmed stolen.
Conrad wrote in his June 2019 memo the policy change was in response to a "pattern of increasing violent crime" and an uptick in shootings involving teens and stolen cars.
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LMPD's current Standard Operating Procedures say pursuits are justified "only when the need of immediate apprehension outweighs the dangers created by the pursuit."
Once a driver "is aware of the officer's presence and the driver either refuses to stop or takes evasive maneuvers," officers must adhere to the pursuit policies.
The rules include that officers should not initiate or participate in pursuits when:
"The offense is a traffic infraction, misdemeanor or nonviolent felony;
Passengers or prisoners are in the police vehicle;
The suspect is operating a motorcycle, scooter, moped or all-terrain vehicle (ATV);
The operator of the vehicle is suspected of impairment because of alcohol or drug use;
The officer's vehicle is not equipped with emergency lights and siren; and
The conditions of the pursuit cause the violent felony (e.g. when initiating a traffic stop, an officer is behind a vehicle and is getting ready to pull the vehicle over when the vehicle accelerates at a high rate of speed)."
Pursuits are to be terminated when:
A supervisor or higher-ranking officer orders it terminated;
The officer loses sight of the vehicle;
The officer's lights or siren malfunction;
The officer doesn't think it's safe to continue; or
The officer loses contact with MetroSafe.
After the pursuit, the officer who initiated the chase must maintain control and direct activities at the conclusion of the pursuit, until a supervisor relieves him or her.
The commanding officer in charge then submits an Administrative Incident Report, to be part of the subsequent pursuit review.
Mandy McLaren, Matt Glowicki and Darcy Costello contributed to this story.
Reach Billy Kobin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Lawsuit settled in Louisville boy Ki'Anthony Tyus police pursuit death