The personal representatives of two of the victims of a high-speed chase that killed five people on Interstate 10 two years ago have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack, Loxley police officer Stephen Bailey and the town of Loxley.
According to the complaint, Bailey was assigned to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) Special Operations Unit on April 1, 2019, when he attempted a traffic stop on a 2019 Chevy Malibu after he observed the driver “impeding the flow of traffic and changing lanes without using a turn signal.”
The driver, later identified as 26-year-old Dominic Scotti Garcia Jr. of San Antonio, Texas, led the officer on a dramatic and lengthy high-speed pursuit that eventually traveled eastbound in the westbound lanes of I-10, “against the flow of oncoming traffic.”
The Malibu, which was also carrying two passengers, eventually struck a 2018 Ford Escape occupied by Joseph L. Andrews, 81, of St. Simons Island, Ga., and his son, Kevin J. Andrews, 54, of Milton, Fla. Kevin Andrews was pronounced dead at the scene while Joseph Andrews was airlifted to University Hospital in Mobile, where he died the next day.
Killed in the Malibu were Garcia, 34-year-old Crystal Lee Moradie of Converse, Texas, and another passenger, Payton Leigh Northcutt, 25, of Leesville, La.
The complaint claims “the chase lasted many miles and gave defendant (Bailey) time to deliberate whether or not to continue his high-speed pursuit of Mr. Garcia” and the “actions of the defendants caused or contributed to the deaths of Kevin Andrews and Joseph Andrews.”
“The defendant was deliberately indifferent to the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs deceased, despite the fact that he had time to consider his actions and terminate the high-speed chase,” it reads. The lawsuit, filed in Baldwin County Circuit Court seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants, including Mack for his supervisory liability and the town of Loxley for municipal liability. It will be heard by Judge Clark Stankoski.
At the time of the incident, BCSO’s own policy advised: “It is the intent to restrict motor vehicle pursuits to those situations and circumstance in which the immediate apprehension of the violator outweighs the hazards generated to deputies, the public or the occupant[s] of the vehicle being pursued … When it becomes apparent that the immediacy of apprehension is outweighed by a clear and unreasonable danger to the deputy and others, the pursuit should be abandoned.”
While the policy suggests “reckless driving” may “present a continuing danger to other road users” and officers may initiate a pursuit to stop it, it also states “unmarked police vehicles should not engage in pursuit driving for the purpose of apprehending a traffic or misdemeanor violator.” Bailey was reportedly driving an unmarked BCSO SUV during the pursuit. The policy further stipulates when pursuits should be discontinued, including when “the hazards of a high-speed pursuit are high, exposing the officer and the public to unwarranted risk, especially if the violation is not of a serious nature.”
In response to questions this week, Mack said he cannot comment on pending litigation, but he believes the case was reviewed by a grand jury last year. Baldwin County District Attorney Bob Wilters did not respond to a request for comment, but no criminal charges appear to have ever been filed against Bailey.
In his annual report to the Baldwin County Commission last month, Mack said BCSO engaged in 73 vehicle pursuits in 2020, 14 of which resulted in the deployment of spikes. Mack noted not all the pursuits were high speed.
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