Lawsuit claims negligence from police officers, improper training led to fatal Independence crash

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 3:30 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 4:35 PM CST
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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (KCTV) - A lawsuit from the family of Jake Monteer cites negligence in various manners as a cause for a March crash that killed two people in Independence.

Jake Monteer’s parents, David and Terri Lynn Monteer, filed the lawsuit against the City of Independence and four Independence Police Department officers following the aftermath of a March 22, 2023 crash.

The lawsuit claims that officers Joshua Gena and Robert Romey “failed to follow non-discretionary, ministerial Independence Vehicle Pursuit Police of ‘attempting to avoid pursuits before they occur.’ The suit alleges that Gena “negligently failed to communicate’ with a supervisor, leading he and his partners in a pursuit to “freelance” their reaction to finding a stolen Jeep.

READ MORE: Man charged with murder following crash that killed 2 in Independence

The stolen Jeep driven by Melvin T. Brown was engaged in a pursuit that the lawsuit called “unnecessary and dangerous” due to it being at night. At one point, the Jeep reached speeds of up to 93 miles per hour. The lawsuit claims Gena instigated it and failed to stop the pursuit before it began by allowing the Jeep to leave its driveway.

It also claims that officer Jeremie Stauch ordered the placement of stop sticks at the intersection of Scott Avenue and Winner Road.

“He knew or should have known, that a vehicle such as the Jeep would likely lose control after engagement with ‘stop sticks’ at the intersection, directly endangering the safety of traffic on Winner Road, whether such traffic was stopped or moving,” the lawsuit claims.

Stauch is also accused of not properly investigating and documenting the crash. The lawsuit claims there were no photographs of the scene of the collision, no witness statements taken and no reference to the use of stop sticks in a police report.

Eventually, the pursuit ended with the use of the stop sticks. Those stop sticks caused Brown to lose control of the vehicle and hit Jake Monteer and passenger Jessica Fields. Monteer and Fields died due to blunt force injuries from the crash.

As a result of the crash, Melvin T. Brown faces two counts of second-degree murder, resisting arrest, leaving the scene of an accident, and tampering with a motor vehicle charges.

In the lawsuit, the City of Independence is cited as being negligent for “fostering a ‘wild west’ culture with respect to vehicle pursuits, resulting in an extraordinary high number (based on population) of high-speed police pursuits” and a “failure to terminate, discipline, instruct and train its police officers including police officers involved in previous vehicular pursuits resulting in injury or death.”

Monteer’s family seeks damages for injuries and damages Monteer suffered between the crash and his death and those he could have provided had he not died. It also seeks payment for additional damages “including, but not limited to, pecuniary losses suffered by reason of the death, funeral expenses, and the reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training, and support of which plaintiffs have been deprived by reason of the death of their son.”

The City of Independence acknowledged it was aware of the lawsuit on Wednesday.

“For the Independence Police Department, the safety of the public is always the highest priority. Any loss of life is tragic, but the death of an innocent bystander weighs heavily on all of us. We are aware that a lawsuit has been filed by the Monteer family, but neither the officers nor the City have been served.”

You can read the full lawsuit here.