Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lawsuit says St. Petersburg police pursuit partly to blame for man's death

ST. PETERSBURG — The girlfriend of a St. Petersburg man killed in a crash on Interstate 275 two years ago claims in a lawsuit that a police pursuit is partly to blame for the man's death.

Shekera Howard of St. Petersburg says in documents filed in Pinellas Circuit Court that St. Petersburg police committed several missteps on Feb. 24, 2009, leading to the death of Tyrone D. Dudley, who was 26. Howard is suing the city and the car's driver, Tommy K. Walls, 26, for wrongful death, citing loss of income and funeral and medical expenses. Dudley is the father of five children under age 8 with Howard.

But in their report of the incident, police say they never chased the Cadillac. A street crimes unit had observed the car in a known drug location earlier that evening, and while continuing to follow it police saw the driver commit several traffic infractions.

Police had seen the driver twice stop in an alley and talk to people there, then fail to come to a complete stop while leaving another alley, according to a report. Police then followed the car several miles to a Burger King at U.S. 19 and 38th Avenue N, where they tried to pull it over. When the car sped off, going east on 38th, police followed from a safe distance and without lights and sirens, according to the report.

The car jumped on I-275 southbound, where it reached 119 mph, ricocheted off a guardrail and crashed near the Fifth Avenue N exit, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

In court documents, Howard's attorney, Robert E. Heyman, says police had no probable cause to follow the 1998 Cadillac Catera other than to "satisfy their curiosity as to the identity of the driver and perhaps get a peek into the vehicle." Heyman argues in court papers that police pursued the Cadillac "until the rocketing pursued vehicle was launched onto the interstate … where it crashed two short exits later."

Neither man was wearing a seatbelt. Dudley was thrown from the front passenger seat and died of head wounds at Bayfront Medical Center. Walls was not badly hurt.

The department's chase policy at that time allowed officers to pursue a vehicle only when a violent felony was committed. Since then, the policy, once one of the region's most restrictive, has been loosened under Mayor Bill Foster. Foster made the issue part of his election platform and gave police more leeway in deciding when to chase. Officers can now chase burglars and serial car thieves.

Both Mike Puetz, a spokesman for the Police Department, and city attorneys declined to comment on the litigation.

Walls remains in the Pinellas County Jail on charges of vehicular homicide, fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer and causing serious injury or death, and drug possession.

Both Walls and Dudley had criminal records before the crash. Walls had convictions in 2003 for possession of cocaine, resisting an officer without violence, and fleeing and eluding a police officer. Dudley pleaded no contest in 2001 to charges of fleeing and eluding a police officer and reckless driving. Two years later, he was convicted of possessing marijuana and methamphetamine with intent to sell.

Lawsuit says St. Petersburg police pursuit partly to blame for man's death 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hernando County Commission rejects plan for waste-to-energy plant

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After several years of discussion, many hours of staff time trying to negotiate a contract and questions about viability, the Hernando County Commission this week voted unanimously to turn down a contract with Freedom Energy Hernando LLC and abandoned the idea of having the county spearhead a …

     Commissioner John Allocco made the motion to deny the contract to Freedom Energy.
  2. Lack of parking for boat trailers causing turmoil along Port Richey waterfront

    Local Government

    PORT RICHEY — As Memorial Day and the summer boating season approach, the city of Port Richey finds itself in turmoil over parking along the city's waterfront.

    Gill Dawg restaurant owner Erik Suojanen, standing on property he owns across from his business, discusses a notice of violation he received from the city for allowing parking there without a submitting a site plan to the city.
 [Photo by Robert Napper]
  3. Tampa court hearing rescheduled for accused neo-Nazi jihadist killer


    TAMPA — Attorneys for Devon Arthurs, the alleged former neo-Nazi turned jihadist accused of shooting to death his two roommates, have asked to reschedule a court hearing that had been set for Wednesday morning.

  4. Parent of struggling DeVry University is changing its name to Adtalem


    Associated Press

    DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — The company that owns one of the nation's largest for-profit college chains is changing its name.

    This 2009 photo shows the entrance to the DeVry University in Miramar, Fla. DeVry Education Group, which owns DeVry University, announced Wednesday that it will now be called Adtalem Global Education. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  5. NATO rolls out the red carpet, buffs its image for Trump


    BRUSSELS — NATO is not only rolling out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump in Brussels Thursday, the military alliance — which Trump once declared obsolete — has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth more than 1 billion euros.

    U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive at Fiumicino's Leonardo Da Vinci International airport, near Rome, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Trump is in Italy for a two day visit, including a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, ahead of his participation in a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday. [Associated Press]