'Careless, negligent and unnecessary'
Families file five claims against the city in relation to fatal Christmas Day crash
By André Coleman 03/21/2013
C laims for damages filed against the city assert Pasadena police officers were “careless and negligent” for engaging in a high-speed chase on Christmas Day that resulted in a crash that left two people dead and three others seriously injured.
Cousins Kenrick Ng, 11, of Daly City, and 25-year-old Tracey Ong Tan, of Glendale, were killed at around 8 p.m. Dec. 25 after the van they were riding in was broadsided at the intersection of North Marengo Avenue and Maple Street by a Dodge Durango, which was being chased by a police vehicle.
Authorities say the Durango, driven by 22-year-old Darrell Lee Williams, was being pursued on southbound Marengo Avenue by an unmarked black SUV when the Dodge ran a red light and collided into the Mazda van carrying Kenrick and Tracey, as well as Kenrick’s parents, Irene Ng, 52, and Kenric Ng, 49. Also in the van was Kristell Ng, 16, Kenrick’s sister, authorities said.
The family was apparently headed to Glendale after spending part of the day at the Pasadena ice skating rink.
The collision occurred nine hours after a longtime Pasadena community activist and youth advocate was shot and killed while standing outside his home in Northwest Pasadena. Another man was wounded in that incident.
Beverly Hills attorney Harry Lippman has filed five separate claims for damages, each for more than $25,000, on behalf of the Ng family and Ong Tan’s parents, Alfredo and Paz Ong Tan of Glendale.
“Due to the dangerous and hazardous conditions created by high-speed police pursuits in populated areas, it was careless, negligent and unnecessary for the involved law enforcement officers to engage in a high-speed pursuit initiated by a minor vehicular infraction,” Lippman wrote in an attachment to the claims, which were filed with the City Clerk’s Office on March 11.
A claim for damages, which does not require that a dollar amount be specified, is usually the first step in the filing of a lawsuit against a government agency. The council will decide in closed session whether to settle the claims or take the families to court.
Lippman did not return calls seeking comment.
“It is tragic that members of the Ng and Tan family died as a result of the traffic collision caused by Darrell Lee Williams,” said Pasadena police spokeswoman Lt. Tracey Ibarra.
“Mr. Williams was lawfully obligated to stop for law enforcement officers and he chose to jeopardize public safety by driving recklessly. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office appropriately charged against the responsible parties.”
Lippman’s assertions of fault on the part of Pasadena police echo remarks made by Colyna Winbush, Williams’ mother.
It was later learned that the black SUV pursuing Williams that night was driven by an FBI agent, who was accompanied by a Pasadena police officer.
“The feds should not have been involved in a routine traffic stop and in a black [unmarked] truck. It’s not adding up,” Winbush told the Weekly.
After the collision, according to the documents filed by Lippman, Irene Ng and Kristell Ng were admitted to Huntington Hospital, where they were treated for concussions and broken bones. Kristell Ng suffered a fractured pelvis and a broken neck in the collision, according to the claim. The extent of Irene Ng’s injuries were not immediately known. According to the claim, the family’s medical expenses were not yet known. The claim states that the family has so far incurred $6,800 in bills. Family members and friends raised money on gofundme.com to help pay for memorial services.
According to the Pasadena Police Department’s pursuit policy, an officer has the discretion to engage in a chase, which can be called off by the watch commander, a sergeant or a lieutenant.
But apparently nobody had a chance to make that call during the short pursuit of Williams, which started after Williams allegedly ran a stop sign at Claremont Street and Marengo in Altadena and lasted less than a minute.
Glendale has a similar police pursuit policy, which gives officers the leeway to break off a chase if they feel that pursuing a suspect could be detrimental to public safety.
In 2004, the Los Angeles Police Department implemented a pursuit policy that allows officers to chase only serious offenders, but only with a police helicopter tracking the action overhead. That policy came months after the Los Angeles Police Commission urged the LAPD to find ways to reduce the threat of injury or death to innocent bystanders caught up in police chases.
On Christmas Day, police were on high alert after community activist and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department employee Victor McClinton, 49, was killed in a drive-by shooting while standing outside his home on Newport Avenue. The assailant, police said, was traveling in an SUV similar to the one driven by Williams. The intended target of the attack, Damion Taylor, 24, was also wounded. Three men have been arrested in connection with the shootings.
Later that evening, authorities say Williams was seen driving a silver Dodge Durango near the place where McClinton was killed. The vehicle resembled one that had been spotted near the McClinton shooting scene, police have said. After the Durango ran a stop sign, a black, unmarked FBI vehicle followed it. Police say witnesses told them that during the chase, with the Durango reaching speeds of up to 60 mph, a gun was tossed from the vehicle.
The Ng family was apparently trying to get onto Maple Street, which leads to a freeway onramp, just as Williams was approaching the intersection, where authorities say he ran a red light.
The FBI agent driving the SUV is a member of the Safe Streets Task Force, first established in 2007 to take down sibling gang members Franklin and Dwayne Thompson. Authorities say the Thompson brothers ran a narcotics and weapons operation that reached the East Coast and used a big-rig truck to transport drugs and guns into Pasadena, where the contraband was then sold to other gang members. The Bothers’ criminal operation led to 12 local murders in 2007, according to authorities. The task force investigation of the gang’s activities led to 89 arrests, among them the Thompson brothers, and 28 federal indictments.
Williams, of Pasadena, and Brittany Washington, 22, of Los Angeles, were arrested after the chase and charged with two counts of murder and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the deaths of Kendrick Ng and Ong Tan. If convicted, the two face life in prison. Williams is being held on $3.1 million bail. Washington is being held on $2.1 million bail.
No charges were filed against Pasadena residents Jada Mays, 18, and Damauria Hannah, 22, who were riding in the Durango Williams was driving that night.
Williams and Washington have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
They will return to court in Pasadena for a preliminary hearing on April 14.