Government & Politics

Veteran’s death after altercation with VA police in Kansas City leads to lawsuit

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Hundreds of people turned out to honor veterans at the 59th Annual Memorial Day Service at Resthaven Cemetery on Monday, May 29, 2017. (Video by Fernando Salazar / The Wichita Eagle)
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Hundreds of people turned out to honor veterans at the 59th Annual Memorial Day Service at Resthaven Cemetery on Monday, May 29, 2017. (Video by Fernando Salazar / The Wichita Eagle)

The family of a veteran who died after an altercation with VA police last year at the Kansas City VA Medical Center filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

Richard Farhner, Nichole Webster and Renee Farhner sued the U.S. government claiming that the death of their father, Dale Farhner, was caused by negligence and excessive use of force by two police officers who have not been identified publicly.

The Kansas City VA Medical Center has declined for months to provide The Star documents, audio and video relating to Farhner’s death.

An internal report was leaked to USA Today in December saying he died after being injured when a routine traffic stop went wrong.

Earlier this year, the VA headquarters denied Congress the information.

In a January letter to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the VA wrote that the information wasn’t being released because Farhner’s death was under investigation.

According to the lawsuit, Farhner went to the Kansas City VA at 4801 Linwood Blvd. on May 10, 2018, for emergency treatment of a post-surgical infection of a wound from a hernia operation performed at the hospital days earlier.

Farhner, of Kingston, Missouri, drove into the parking lot and drove the wrong way on a one-way driveway leading to the emergency room entrance. He parked the vehicle and was approached by one or two unidentified police officers who ordered him out of his vehicle, according to the lawsuit.

The officers then got into a physical altercation with Farhner, resulting in injuries including cuts, scrapes, bruises and a traumatic brain injury, according to the suit.

Farhner, who was 66, died two days later at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Farhner’s family contends that the injuries were caused by the negligent conduct of the officers and resulted in his death. The officers owed Farhner a duty to use care regarding his “safety and well-being.”

The family also contends that the officers used more force than what was reasonably necessary under the circumstances. Because of that, the suit says, the U.S. government is liable for the wrongful death of Farhner.

Webster, as the personal representative of her father’s estate, has also filed similar claims of negligence and excess force. As an alternative to the wrongful death claims, she claims the officers’ actions caused her father’s injuries, but did not result in his death.

Efforts to reach a representative of the Kansas City VA Medical Center Thursday were not immediately successful.

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.
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