Family files lawsuit over Evansville teen’s death in 2007

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Saturday, October 29, 2011
— The family of an Evansville teen who died in 2007 has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Evansville and a former Evansville Police Department officer.

According to the complaint filed Friday in Madison, the officer used deadly force against Dane Wourms, 16, during a high-speed chase and was not trained in pursuit tactics. The family is suing for damages and attorneys fees, but no dollar amount is listed on the complaint.

Wourms had previous contacts with police that “did not end well” when officer Scott Fields initiated a pursuit at 1:20 a.m. on Main Street in Evansville, according to the complaint. Fields struck the rear bumper of the car Wourms was driving, according to the complaint.

As a result, the car went off the road and struck a tree; Wourms was ejected. He sustained a severe head injury and was pronounced dead on the scene, according to the complaint.

Fields had not been trained in the Pursuit Intervention Technique and only had been involved in one pursuit prior to the crash, according to the complaint.

According to Wisconsin State Patrol investigators, Fields did not hit Wourms’ vehicle with the squad car.

Authorities said Fields lost sight of the fleeing car as it went over a small hill just before County M and the city limits. Fields later found the car on its roof south of the road near a line of pine trees. He discovered the body of Wourms nearby.

Wourms was driving about 75 mph in a 25 mph zone, according to the accident reconstruction report. His blood alcohol level was 0.17—more than twice the legal limit to drive—and he was not wearing a seatbelt, according to the report. He did not have a valid driver’s license.

The city of Evansville had not seen the lawsuit as of late Friday night, Administrator Dan Wietecha said.

Fields left the Evansville Police Department in 2011, Wietecha said.

The Evansville Police Commission in 2007 dismissed a complaint from the family against Fields. The commission found Fields did not violate department policies.

Separate reports from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and Wisconsin State Patrol also stated Fields followed policy and did not cause Wourms’s car to crash.

Last updated: 6:37 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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