Judge dismisses lawsuit against Evansville officer
MADISON A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against an Evansville police officer filed by the family of a teen who died during a 2007 police chase.
Dane Wourms, 16, died April 22, 2007, near Main Street and County M on Evansville’s east side, according to court documents.
The Wourms family lawsuit accused officer Scott Fields of causing the crash by slamming his squad into Wourms’ car. The Wourms family argued that the crash constituted “unreasonable seizure” and violated Dane Wourms’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Attorneys for the city in September filed a request for summary judgment. In an opinion filed Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb granted the motion and dismissed the case.
Crabb wrote that it was only speculation that Fields’ squad struck Wourms’ car.
“Dane Wourms’ death was unfortunate and regrettable, but no reasonable juror could find from the evidence that the death was the result of any intentional action that the defendant took,” Crabb wrote.
According to the opinion and order filed Wednesday:
Wourms’ mother called 911 at 12:59 a.m. April 22, 2007. She told a dispatcher her son was drunk and out of control.
Fields heard the call and headed toward the Wourms’ home.
At 1:06 a.m., Wourms left home and headed into Evansville. A dispatcher asked Fields to find and stop Wourms. Fields was familiar with Wourms and started checking homes around the city where Wourms had spent time in the past.
He did not find him.
Between 1:14 and 1:17 a.m., Rock County Communications Center dispatchers took complaints of squealing tires in downtown Evansville. Fields asked for and got permission to investigate.
Fields saw Wourms’ car turn north from a downtown alley onto North Madison Street; he activated his emergency lights.
Wourms turned east onto Main Street and sped off. He ignored stop signs and intersections.
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. He was not wearing a seatbelt and did not have a valid driver’s license.
Fields said he lost sight of Wourms’ car when it crested a hill on East Main Street east of Water Street. He tried following the car, but lost it. He turned off his lights and siren, turned around and drove back toward Evansville to keep looking.
Along the way, he saw dirt and debris on the road. Fields got out of his squad and found Wourms’ car on its roof 40 yards from the edge of Main Street just west of County M.
He found Wourms’ body on the ground outside the vehicle.
Fields left the Evansville Police Department in 2011, City Administrator Dan Wietecha previously said.
Jeff Scott Olson, an attorney for the Wourms family, said he will discuss with the family the possibility of appeal.