Government & Politics

Family calls KC police negligent in death, but police say motorcyclist died while driving drunk

Ryan Jaye Jordan
Ryan Jaye Jordan

Larry Jordan left the courtroom Tuesday each time jurors were shown the moment his son died.

In an unusual move, the police video was played during opening statements in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the parents of Ryan Jaye Jordan, a 34-year-old man killed when his motorcycle slammed into the rear of a stationary Kansas City patrol car.

But the jury heard two conflicting views of why that event on April 2, 2011, happened. Either the police were negligent or Jordan was to blame for driving while highly intoxicated.

Larry and Karen Jordan of Kansas City sued the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and Officer Terrance Brown over the death of their son. Karen Jordan has since died.

Brown had stopped his patrol car about 1:45 a.m. on the shoulder of the on-ramp to southbound U.S. 71 from Blue River Road. The vehicle lights were off and Brown was standing at the rear of the car aiming a radar gun at highway traffic.

Jordan, a 34-year-old coach and health teacher at Derrick Thomas Academy, drove his 2008 Suzuki onto the ramp. Rear-facing video from a camera on the police car shows the headlight of Jordan’s motorcycle approaching and striking the vehicle, shoving it several feet forward.

Jordan was thrown from the bike and died at the scene from multiple blunt force trauma. Brown was not injured.

Jordan’s family says the officer was negligent for parking his vehicle on the ramp in the dark.

“He turned off his lights,” plaintiff’s attorney Rick Gepford told the jury. “No hazards. No parking (lights). … It was dark.”

Defense attorney Benjamin Cox said that streetlights made the police vehicle easily seen and that there was more than 22 feet of room for an observant driver to avoid a collision.

Cox said that Jordan had been drinking in Westport with a friend before the incident and that the state would introduce evidence he had a blood alcohol content of 0.235, nearly three times the legal limit to operate a vehicle.

“Fifteen drinks, that’s how much alcohol Ryan Jordan had in his system,” Cox said, pointing to a display of 15 plastic cups set on a table before the jury. “He drove off the road onto the shoulder and into the back of the police car. … He made a bad decision that night.”

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC