PATERSON - The widow of a Chinese restaurant owner killed in downtown Paterson last May by a motorist fleeing from police is seeking $20 million from the city, according to a legal claim.
The Aug. 10 legal notice of tort claim accused unnamed Paterson police officers of pursuing the vehicle that hit and killed 41-year-old Jun Ting Pan on May 17 "in a reckless and unsafe manner; in failing to end the pursuit; in creating a dangerous situation by not ending the pursuit."
The fatal collision happened at about 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon at the crowded intersection of Main and Market streets, just a block away from City Hall. Pan was one of six pedestrians struck by what turned out to be a stolen Honda CRV in the incident, but all the other victims survived.
At the time of the incident, police sources said the driver of the CRV had been suspected in a burglary in a nearby neighborhood earlier in the day. The burglary suspect escaped police when one of the cops chasing him fell climbing a fence, the sources said.
The sources said the suspect then hopped into the Honda, which was double-parked with its engine running, but struck a police car as he tried to get away, eventually spinning out of control into the crowd of downtown pedestrians.
Police later announced they had arrested Harold Rasbin of Orlando. He was charged with first-degree aggravated manslaughter, first-degree death by automobile, leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle collision, five counts of aggravated assault for causing bodily injury while operating a stolen motor vehicle, five counts of aggravated assault for recklessly causing serious bodily injury and numerous other motor-vehicle-related offenses. He could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated manslaughter.
The tort claim notice filed by Pan's widow, Haiyan Wei of Queens, is the preliminary step required before someone can file a lawsuit against a government entity in New Jersey.
Wei's tort claim was one of two filed last month involving people struck during police pursuits of stolen vehicles in Paterson.
In the other case, 45-year-old Tanika Godwin of Paterson filed a claim over a May 27 incident in which she was seriously injured in a crash involving police pursuing a stolen vehicle near the corner of 7th Avenue and East 26th Street.
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Godwin's claim accused the police of causing the motorist they were chasing "to drive at excessive speed, ignore various traffic rules and regulations…and violated various protocols and guidelines for the chasing of suspects."
The police report said the driver of the stolen vehicle crashed into Godwin's Honda Accord, leaving her unconscious and trapped inside. The police report said Godwin broke her pelvis in the crash.
In her legal notice, Godwin said she suffered a fractured knee, multiple rib fractures, a lumbar vertebrae fracture and aortic valve injury that required her to have a stent.
Godwin claimed she has lost $8,323 in wages from not working because of her injuries and that the car she bought for $24,797 in 2020 was totaled. Her claim said Godwin's medical expenses had to be completely calculated.
The city of Paterson, as a policy, does not comment on pending litigation.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: email@example.com
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ: Widow of restaurant owner killed by driver seeks $20M