Police – December 18, 2020
By: Nathaniel Ballantyne
(TrueNewsBlog) – The dashcam video captured a horrific scene: a Kansas sheriff’s deputy in a patrol truck mowing down a Black man who was running, shirtless, across a field in the summer darkness after fleeing a traffic stop.
Lionel Womack — a 35-year-old former police detective from Kansas City, Kansas — alleges in a excessive force lawsuit filed Thursday that he sustained serious injuries when Kiowa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez intentionally drove over him during the Aug. 15 encounter.
Womack said in a statement that he hadn’t been speeding nor was he under the influence of anything when he was initially pulled over. His driver’s license, insurance and registration were up to date.
“When the first officer turned his lights on, I pulled over and complied … exactly as you’re supposed to. But when three additional vehicles pulled up quickly and started to surround my car, I freaked out. That’s when I took off, it was a ‘fight or flight’ moment and I was going to live,” he said. “I felt like I was in danger. This was out in the country, late at night, and it was dark. So I ran for my life. That’s what you see in the dashcam video. I’m running in an open field, and I’m scared.”
The graphic video is at the crux of the federal civil rights case filed by attorney Michael Kuckelman against the deputy in U.S. District Court in Kansas. The lawsuit argues that Rodriguez used excessive force and was “callously indifferent” to Womack’s civil rights.
Womack had left the police department earlier in August with hopes of growing his own security business. He was on his way back home from a business trip to California when a Kansas Highway Patrol officer in western Kansas initiated a chase over “an alleged traffic violation,” according to the lawsuit. Sheriff’s deputies from Pratt County and Kiowa County joined in the chase.
The car chase ended on a dirt road, and Womack took off on foot across a nearby field.
The dashcam footage from a Pratt County sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle shows Rodriguez using his patrol truck to catch up to Womack, who was unarmed.
Rodriguez swerves his truck to hit Womack, knocking him to the ground and running over him. Womack rolls out from under the truck, his arms and legs flailing as someone on the video shouts, “lie down, lie down.” A deputy in the second patrol truck can be heard uttering an expletive as he watches.
Womack says he sustained serious injuries to his back, pelvis and thigh as well as to his right knee, ankle and foot.
“The dashcam video is disturbing,” Kuckelman said. “It is impossible to watch a video of a deputy driving his truck over Mr. Womack without feeling sick. There was nowhere for Mr. Womack to go. It was an open field, and he was trapped, yet the deputy drove his truck over him anyway.”
Neither Kiowa County Sheriff Chris Tedder nor his attorney has responded to Associated Press requests for comment. No one has explained why Rodriguez chose to run Womack down. The deputy’s race is unclear.
Kuckelman urged Tedder in person and in letters to fire Rodriguez, and the sheriff has refused. Rodriguez remains on patrol. Kuckelman also wants Rodriguez charged criminally and has accused the sheriff of engaging in a coverup of the deputy’s conduct.