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OGDEN — A Unified police officer who accidentally ran over and killed a woman she was dispatched to check on was sued Wednesday by the estate of the victim.
On March 5 about 10:50 p.m., officer Megan Franklin was dispatched to a strip mall at 3304 S. 2300 East to conduct a welfare check on a person in the parking lot. Cindreia Simone Europe, 25, who was originally from Georgia, had reportedly been living out of her car and had been parked in the lot for several days. Her car was towed earlier that day.
An employee of one of the nearby businesses saw Europe lying in the parking lot and called 911. He told dispatchers that “there was an individual in dark clothing laying down in the middle of the parking lot near the Zions Bank and that he would hate to see the individual run over,” the lawsuit states.
But as Franklin entered the parking lot, she did not see Europe. Her patrol car ran over Europe, who was taken to a local hospital and died from her injuries.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Franklin.
The 911 caller who requested the welfare check told dispatchers that there was a person in dark clothing lying down in the parking lot, but dispatchers did not specifically tell Unified officers that the person was lying down in the parking lot, according to a letter from District Attorney Sim Gill clearing Franklin.
Now, Europe’s mother, LaToya Mack, who represents her daughter’s estate, has filed a lawsuit against Franklin, the Unified Police Department, Valley Emergency Communications Center, an “unknown” dispatcher, West Valley City and other John Does.
According to the lawsuit, “after entering the parking lot, defendant Franklin failed to keep a proper lookout and was traveling at an unreasonable speed and ran over Cindreia with her patrol vehicle. Despite running over Cindreia, defendant Franklin, apparently unaware that she had run over Cindreia, failed to slow or stop her patrol vehicle, resulting in her patrol vehicle dragging Cindreia for approximately 45 feet.”
Franklin was new to the Unified Police Department at the time of the accident. She came from the West Valley Police Department where she had a history of poor driving and eventually resigned from the department because of her driving record.
According to the West Valley Police Department and the lawsuit, Franklin was involved in seven preventable accidents during her eight years with the department. She resigned in October 2017 after being issued a 40-hour suspension by then Chief Lee Russo for her latest driving violation.
According to disciplinary orders issued by West Valley City, the officer:
- Hit a rock with her patrol car while making a U-turn on April 10, 2010, causing $858 in damage.
- Was involved in an accident while making a U-turn on July 26, 2010.
- Was issued a letter of reprimand on March 22, 2012, for driving at least 90 mph in the express lane on I-15 in her patrol car and weaving in and out of traffic, even though she was not responding to a call.
- Hit a construction barrel with her patrol car on Aug. 29, 2013.
- Backed into a light pole on Nov. 8, 2014, while in her patrol car.
- On Feb. 24, 2015, the officer took her eyes off the road to look at her computer screen and rear-ended another vehicle that had stopped. The officer’s head hit the windshield in that incident because she was not wearing her seat belt, according to a letter from the chief’s office. For this incident she was given a 30-hour suspension.
- The officer was also disciplined for inadvertently leaving her body camera on her uniform while doing laundry, damaging the body camera “beyond repair,” according to a letter from the chief’s office.
- Other incidents include twice hitting a concrete curb with her patrol vehicle and not showing up for a preliminary hearing in court after she was subpoenaed to testify.
The lawsuit claims that West Valley City “failed to disclose defendant Franklin’s dangerously poor driving record to Unified Police Department,” while Unified police “failed to inquire as to defendant Franklin’s driving history prior to beginning her employment with Unified Police Department.”
It contends that Franklin failed to “exercise reasonable care and to avoid putting others in danger” because she did not maintain a proper lookout and by driving at an unreasonable speed when she hit Europe.
The suit is seeking a jury trial to determine damages.
The attorney representing Mack was scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Unified police confirmed Wednesday that Franklin has since resigned from the department. But Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera declined comment on the lawsuit Wednesday, stating she had not been served with it yet and had not had a chance to read it, though she said the department received a notice of claim about a month ago.
West Valley police and VECC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This story will be updated throughout the day.