‘Thanks for the Fancy Driving, Officer’

     McALLEN, Texas (CN) – A speeding Harlingen policeman rammed a suspect’s car into a “quietly sleeping” woman’s bedroom, throwing her 7 feet out of the bed and seriously injuring her, she claims in court.
     Joanna Pyle sued Harlingen, and three of its police officers, including Zackary Rhinehart, in Federal Court.
     Harlingen, pop. 65,000, is in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, about 30 miles east of Brownsville.
     In her complaint, Pyle says Rhinehart came upon a man “acting suspiciously” while patrolling central Harlingen at 2:30 a.m. on April 3, 2011.
     “The suspect had not committed any crimes, nor were any crimes reported to Officer Rhinehart,” the complaint states. “Rhinehart, without probable cause, attempted to apprehend the suspect as the suspect entered a gray Mercury Grand Marquis. In violation of Harlingen Police pursuit policy, Rhinehart initiated a vehicle chase, which started in central Harlingen and ended in San Benito. Along the way, four additional Harlingen patrol units joined in the chase.”
     A Harlingen police cruiser blocked the fleeing suspect, but he rammed through and continued into San Benito.
     “Continuing the chase outside of his jurisdiction, and after multiple violations of Harlingen Police pursuit policy, Zackary Rhinehart followed the suspect at high speed onto private property and onto a populated apartment complex,” the complaint states.
     “Without regard for the safety of civilians on private property and outside of his jurisdiction Zackary Rhinehart continued to follow the suspect and initiated the dangerous ‘pit’ maneuver next to parked cars and the residential units of the apartment complex.”
     In a pit maneuver, a pursuing officer rams a vehicle to knock it sideways, forcing the driver to lose control and stop.
     The complaint continues: “In violation of Harlingen Police pursuit policy, Zackary Rhinehart used his police vehicle to ram and bump the suspect, thereby causing the suspect to lose control of his vehicle and plow into a residential unit at a high rate of speed.
     “The suspect’s vehicle and the police vehicle crashed into the sleeping area of the apartment occupied by Joanna Pyle, causing plaintiff significant injuries and emotional trauma. At the time, Joanna Pyle was quietly sleeping, when she was thrown 7 feet by the impact.
     “Plaintiff has been left with physical injuries as well as emotional trauma, due to the extreme recklessness and disregard for the public safety shown by Zackary Rhinehart.”
     Pyle says she was hospitalized for several days, and the accident harmed her unborn child, which was born with birth defects.
     She also suffered “mental anguish, headaches, nightmares and has gone from an outgoing person to being introverted, withdrawn, fearful and depressed,” she claims.
     “Tragically, defendant city’s police department was involved in another suspicious high speed chase two weeks prior to the instant episode, where the earlier chase resulted in the death of two innocent civilians, yet no steps were taken to train defendant police about the Harlingen Pursuit Policy,” Pyle says in the complaint.
     She seeks an injunction, medical expenses and punitive damages for civil rights violations, negligence and pain and suffering.
     She is represented by Omar Rosales of Harlingen.

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