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Mother Of Passenger Killed In Greenville High-Speed Police Chase Sues SC Highway Patrol

The driver in the crash was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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A Greenville County woman is suing the South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) and the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) after her son was killed as a passenger in a 2019 police chase.

Natasha Jamal Mansell, mother of Michael “Mike” Loumetric Mansell, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in Richland County Court of Common Pleas on May 6.

Mike Mansell, 30, was killed in a high-speed police chase on July 8, 2019, in Greenville, South Carolina, according to the lawsuit.

Mansell was the passenger in a car driven by Kent Washington that was traveling 56 mph in a 40 mph zone, the lawsuit said. He was coming home from work at the Nissan parts distribution, the Greenville News reported.

SCHP trooper Austyn Vaughn, who had only been working in law enforcement for a little over a year, activated his blue lights and sirens in attempt to pull Washington over for a speeding violation, according to the lawsuit.

“Washington did not stop, and so Vaughn engaged in a high speed pursuit, with Mike trapped inside the vehicle driven by Washington,” the lawsuit stated. “The vehicles traveled on US-25 and I-85 reaching speeds of up to 117 mph.”

Vaughn saw Washington move across four lanes of traffic and almost hit a van and continued the pursuit, according to the lawsuit.

“In total, Washington and Vaughn passed 19 vehicles traveling in the opposite direction on undivided roadways and overtook 13 vehicles traveling in the same direction in moderate traffic during this nighttime pursuit,” the lawsuit said.

In his report, Vaughn later noted that he believed Washington was driving under the influence, according to the lawsuit.

“Washington eventually attempted to exit I-85 onto exit 46A (Augusta Road) at a high rate of speed while being pursued by Vaughn,” the lawsuit said. “As Washington was exiting the interstate, Vaughn’s high-speed pursuit of him caused Washington to lose control of his vehicle and travel off the left side of the ramp, striking a bridge, and finally coming to rest at the bottom of a ravine.”

Vaughn did not call dispatch during the pursuit, according to the lawsuit. After the accident, he first called dispatch to inform his supervisor he was in a vehicle pursuit.

According to the lawsuit, here’s what was said:

Supervisor: “Were you trying to stop them or what you got?”
Vaughn: “Affirmative sir. They went onto 85, and I was trying to get up to them.”
Supervisor: “Were you 10-0 [engaged in a pursuit in progress], because I never heard
any radio traffic in reference to that?”
Vaughn: “Negative. I was trying to catch up.”

“Vaughn was not ‘trying to catch up’ to Washington,” the lawsuit claims.
“Rather, Vaughn was on Washington’s tail and relentlessly pursuing him at a high rate of speed right up until the moment that the pursuit caused Washington to lose control of his vehicle.”

Following the accident, dash cam video shows Vaughn entering and exiting his patrol car several times before going to Washington’s car to check on them, according to the lawsuit.

“Vaughn walks around slowly and with no sense of urgency,” the lawsuit said. “Vaughn pulls a cellphone out of his pocket and places a call to an unknown individual.”

On the phone, Vaughn explained that he tried to stop the car and was trying to catch up when the crash happened. He said the car was down and the ravine with people inside, the suit said.

“Yet, he continues to talk off radio to this person, rather than render aid,” the lawsuit said.

While Vaughn is still on the phone, Mike Mansell was “enduring conscious pain and suffering,” the lawsuit said.

In sworn testimony, Washington said that Mike Mansell tried to speak to him, but couldn’t. He was breathing and “making moaning noises like he was in pain,” the lawsuit said.

“By the time other first responders made it to the vehicle, Mike had passed away,” the lawsuit said.

Mike Mansell was a father of three young kids at the time of his death.

Washington was charged in the crash, WYFF reported. He was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

What they’re suing for

According to the lawsuit, Vaughn violated several SCDPS/ SCHP vehicle pursuit policies during the police chase. Specifically, Vaughn should have notified his supervisor immediately when he initiated pursuit. The supervisor would have then decided if the pursuit was necessary.

According to the policy, a vehicle pursuit must be terminated when the officer/ supervisor determines that “the danger of continuing the pursuit outweighs the need to apprehend the suspect,” the lawsuit said.

Vaughn allegedly failed to comply with South Carolina law which requires officers to constantly evaluate the level of danger caused by the pursuit with the need to catch the suspect and to terminate the pursuit immediately when the danger outweighs the need to arrest.

Because of Vaughn’s actions, the lawsuit said that Mike Mansell endured “serious personal injury, conscious pain and suffering and death,” and because of that, SCDPS owes the plaintiff more than $1 million.

“Mike’s statutory beneficiaries — his three young children – are entitled to recover wrongful death damages resulting from Mike’s death, including damages for economic loss, mental shock and suffering, wounded feelings, grief and sorrow, loss of companionship, deprivation of the use and comfort of the deceased’s society, loss of decedent’s ability to earn money for the support, maintenance, care and protection of the beneficiaries; and reasonable funeral expenses,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit claims SCDPS/ SCHP was negligent in the hiring, training, and supervision of Vaughn, who only had a high school diploma and a year’s worth of experience as a trooper before this incident.

Charleston attorneys Samuel Clawson and Greenville attorneys David Price and Sam Tooker are representing Natasha Jamal Mansell in the lawsuit.

SC police pursuits… a problem?

A recent Greenville News investigation found that 113 people were killed during police pursuits in South Carolina from 2009 to 2018, making the Palmetto State No. 3 in the nation for people killed in police chases during that time, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

A “vast majority” of police chases in South Carolina were “initiated over traffic violations and other nonviolent crimes, ” and one in three resulted in injury or death, according to a 2018 State newspaper article. In the article, several police experts suggested that a state-wide policy for police pursuits could help reduce the high number of deaths.

Police chases in South Carolina also result in a high number of lawsuits.

In April, five lawsuits were filed against the town of Irmo, South Carolina after three teenagers were killed following a 2018 police chase that began as a minor traffic violation.

In January, a Charleston County, South Carolina woman sued the Hanahan and North Charleston police departments after her husband was killed as a bystander in a 2018 police chase.

In 2018, an Easley, South Carolina woman won a $1 million settlement with the City of Liberty after her husband was killed as a bystander in a police chase by a man who was allegedly on meth. 

Even the suspects who were being pursued by police at the time of their accidents have won settlements against SC police departments. 

In 2014, an Orangeburg man who was injured after leading deputies on a police chase won a $260,000 settlement with the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, the Times and Democrat reported.

That man, Quinnton Jamar Henderson, has allegedly led police on two other chases since he won the lawsuit in 2014, according to the Times and Democrat.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].

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