$5M fallout from wild freeway chase

HOUSTON -- A wild freeway chase that came to a tragic end after a police officer's attempt to deploy a spike strip will apparently cost Houston taxpayers $5 million.

Houston City Council this week will consider paying that amount to settle a lawsuit stemming from the January 2009 accident in which two young men suffered severe brain damage.

Neither of the victims -- Dexter Sewell, 20, and Mecole Roques, 19 – were involved in the chase. Their car was struck when they were stuck in a traffic jam created by a Houston police car that had blocked traffic so that an officer could deploy a spike strip.

Both of the young men suffered such severe brain damage, the city attorney's office said, neither of them will be able to live or work independently and they'll both require extensive medical treatment for the rest of their lives.

The chase began when a woman who was being arrested by a Harris County constable's deputy somehow managed to steal the deputy's car. A couple of Houston police officers deployed themselves ahead of the chase in an attempt to stop it.

One of the officers pulled his car sideways to block two lanes of traffic, trying to create a safe space from which another officer could throw a spike strip. That created a traffic jam, stopping innocent drivers caught in the path of the chase.

A video camera mounted on one of the deputies' vehicles captured images of the fleeing car speeding toward the traffic jam, then slamming into the rear of an 18-wheeler and the back of the car carrying the two crash victims.

When he filed a lawsuit on behalf of the victims and their children in 2010, attorney Michael Callahan accused the officers of using trapped motorists as "human shields."

"And what it amounted to was a betrayal of the trust that we place in our police officers," Callahan said.

Both of the victims suffered such traumatic injuries, legal guardians have been appointed not only for the two of them but also their two children.

"He remembers how he used to be," said Lisa Bean-Kemp, Sewell's sister. "However, he's stated to me that he feels like he's trapped inside of a body that's not functioning."

Another suit against Harris County officials was dropped last year, according to the Harris County Attorney's Office.

The attorney for the young men initially asked for more than $30 million in damages.

The $5 million settlement, which the city attorney's office said has been approved by a federal judge, is scheduled for a Houston City Council vote this Wednesday.


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