Crime

High speed, no lights or sirens: Deputy charged in wreck that left bystander disabled

Dashcam video shows sheriff’s deputy run red light, wreck into car

Dashcam video from a May 9, 2018, traffic collision shows a Jackson County sheriff's deputy run a red light and crash into another vehicle, severely injuring the other driver. The deputy was involved in a pursuit that started with a broken taillight.
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Dashcam video from a May 9, 2018, traffic collision shows a Jackson County sheriff's deputy run a red light and crash into another vehicle, severely injuring the other driver. The deputy was involved in a pursuit that started with a broken taillight.

A Jackson County sheriff’s deputy who plowed through a red light last May and crashed into another motorist, ejecting him from his car and severely injuring him, did not have his emergency lights and sirens on, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The sheriff’s deputy, Sean Stoff, 34, was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor careless and imprudent driving.

The crash happened about 1:35 a.m. May 9 at Missouri 350 and Maple Street in Raytown.

Christopher S. Reed, 30, of Raytown was thrown from his car onto the side of the road by the impact and suffered extensive head injuries, a spinal injury and a broken clavicle. He was making a left turn with a green light at the intersection when the deputy hit him.

The Star obtained video from the dashboard cameras of two sheriff’s deputy patrol cars showing the high-speed chase that led to the crash.

According to the video, Stoff was traveling 71 mph in a 45 mph zone after the police chase was officially taken off an emergency status.

Brett Burmeister, an attorney representing Reed, said he was initially concerned that the deputy would not face criminal charges.

“As a community we place power and trust in law enforcement and they do great work in keeping us safe but when a law enforcement officer abuses that power we give them it makes us less safe and he or she must be held accountable,” Burmeister said.

“I think that is what’s happening here,” Burmeister said. “(My client) He’s happy with the message that is being sent here and that is no one is above the law.”

If convicted, Stoff could be sentenced to a year in the Jackson County jail and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.

Phone calls and emails to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office were not returned Wednesday. Sheriff Darryl Forté could not be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Stoff Wednesday were not immediately successful.

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Chris Reed was seriously injured and remains in the hospital after being involved in a crash with a Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy in Raytown. GoFundMe

According to court records, Stoff, of Blue Springs, was on duty when he assisted in a pursuit of car that was fleeing southbound on Missouri 350 at Maple Street in Raytown.

According to investigators, the chase started when another deputy began to pursue a tan Buick because it had a damaged tail light and an active warrant associated with Buckner Police for a “missing person.”

The driver of the Buick allegedly refused to stop when the deputy activated his lights and sirens and gave chase.

When the chase reached southbound Interstate 435 near Interstate 70, a second deputy, identified as Stoff, deployed a GPS tracker on the fleeing vehicle. Once the tracker activated, the deputies turned off their lights and sirens.

The deputies continued to follow the Buick using the GPS tracking system.

Still, Stoff continued driving at high speeds, according to the video and the reports. Dashcam video from the two patrol cars showed Stoff traveling 71 mph approaching the intersection.

Reed had a green light as he made his turn at the intersection. Stoff had a red light. The video showed Stoff did not slow as he approached the intersection and his lights and sirens were not activated, according to court records.

Stoff’s patrol car struck the passenger’s side of the 1989 Chevrolet Caprice driven by Reed. The impact spun the Caprice “violently in a counterclockwise fashion,” the highway patrol report said.

Stoff’s patrol car struck a concrete curb and then rotated counterclockwise, rumbled onto the sidewalk, collided into a small tree and then passed through a row of ornamental shrubs before it stopped in the driveway of the Hy-Vee gas station driveway.

Reed, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the Caprice and tumbled onto the grass near the concrete curb. A deputy rushed over to Reed and noticed that Reed didn’t have a pulse. The deputy attempted to start chest compressions but Reed started to breathing on his own.

Reed’s mother, Robbie A. Highfill, told investigators she was following her son when the crash occurred. She can be seen in the video, frantically searching for Reed in his car before realizing he was thrown to the other side of the street.

Highfill, 45, jumped out of her car to check on Reed and then tried to gather several $100 and $20 bills that flew from the Caprice and scattered in the intersection. The money was for the family’s rent, and had been with Reed in his car.

Reed’s dog was also in the car him, and jumped out of the wreckage and ran toward the grocery store, according to the report.

Another deputy rushed over to Stoff, who was initially unresponsive. However, Stoff awakened when the deputy yelled his name. Stoff asked, “what happened?” He said he couldn’t feel his leg, according to the report.

Reed’s attorney said the wreck was an example of why police chases deserve more scrutiny.

Many police departments in the Kansas City area allow officers to chase at high speeds for any infraction. In contrast, the Kansas City Police Department’s policy states that officers will not begin a pursuit for a traffic violation, DUI or stolen vehicle unless the occupants have been involved in a dangerous felony or there is an immediate danger to others.

“From a broader perspective my client and I both feel that as a community we need to take a good hard look at the police pursuit issue in this city,” Burmeister said. ”These collisions are happening far too frequently and are largely avoidable.”

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.
Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.
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