A western Pennsylvania man who contends he was run over by a drunken driver while he was in custody and lying handcuffed in a road has sued police and county prosecutors.
Jerry Ray, 48, of Pittsburgh, was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication on Oct. 16, 2011. Ray was handcuffed and police laid him down in a traffic lane on a major downtown intersection, albeit about 2:15 a.m., according to a police report cited by his lawyer, Gary Ogg.
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“By their own report, he's in custody, they have him lying in the street, and he's run over by a drunk driver,” Ogg said Tuesday.
Ray was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital where he was treated for serious injuries to his head, face and hips, and continues to deal with post-concussion issues, Ogg said. The other driver was given one year of probation.
Ray is suing the Washington, Pa., police because he was run over while in custody.
He's also suing the Washington County district attorney's office because prosecutors there allegedly failed to consult him about a plea agreement they entered in the drunken driving case against the man who ran him over. Ray contends his rights as a victim were violated because he wasn't asked to consent to allowing the motorist to enter a special probation program that could eventually allow his record to be expunged, according to the lawsuit and online court records.
“The bottom line was he was run over after he was placed in custody,” Ogg said.
The police report identifies the driver's car as “Unit 1” and Ray's handcuffed body as “Unit 2.” The incident is described in just one sentence of a police report, said Ogg, who is still investigating what happened and why.
“I've never quite seen a case where a guy gets run over by a car and it's one sentence in a police report,” Ogg said.
Though arrested, Ray himself was never charged, Ogg said, which is confirmed by court records.
District Attorney Eugene Vittone said Tuesday he can't comment on litigation. Washington police didn't immediately return calls for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. Washington is about 20 miles southwest of the city.
The other driver was placed in a program generally reserved for first offenders after an appearance last year in Washington County Common Pleas Court, court records show. They don't show that he's completed the program, nor explain why that is.
A key issue will be how long police let Ray lie handcuffed in the street, Don Zettlemoyer, who directs the Justice & Safety Institute at Penn State University, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which first reported the lawsuit.
If Ray was run over just as he was being cuffed, Zettlemoyer said police may not have been able to avoid the accident. Still, the law is clear that “once you place a person in custody, the responsibility for their safety is yours.”
But Ogg insists, however the accident happened, police “certainly didn't move him fast enough.”