Lexington police have yet to wrap up an investigation launched more than two months ago after one of its officers ran a red light and crashed into a convertible carrying newlyweds to their wedding reception.
The Lexington Division of Police released the initial traffic collision report, but officer Aaron Kidd, custodian of records for the police, denied the Herald-Leader's request for the investigation report by the Collision Reconstruction Unit because the investigation is ongoing. The newspaper requested the report through the Open Records Act.
Injured newlywed Joe Snider told the Herald-Leader that he and his wife, Amy, are waiting for the final report. Joe Snider has said he saw the police car approaching "fairly fast." Police have not said how fast officer Justin Rowland was traveling, but that detail could be in the final report.
"It seems like they're taking their time," Snider said. "I guess I don't think there's anything left to investigate."
Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said she could not comment on the May 21 accident until the final report was completed. She said police would be willing to discuss the case in more detail after the investigation has ended.
Kidd said no internal investigation has been initiated in relation to the case, and no disciplinary action has been taken against Rowland.
Additionally, Rowland has not been cited for running a red light, according to Fayette District Court records.
That is consistent with how police treat the public. Speaking generally, Roberts said people involved in crashes are rarely ticketed or arrested; citations are issued only if an officer witnesses a "traffic infraction" leading to the crash or if there was an "aggravating circumstance," such as alcohol intoxication.
"In most cases, we have to witness the traffic violation to issue the citation," she said.
The Sniders were badly injured in the crash. Joe and Amy Snider say they "ended up with almost $60,000 in hospital bills" and they want someone to pay for that. They have hired an attorney, but no lawsuit has been filed.
"We're going to have to do something to make sure everything's paid for," Joe Snider said.
Their attorney, Matt Ellison, said he could not answer specific questions about the case while insurance companies and the law firm investigate. In an email statement, he said the couple was being represented by the law firm Fowler, Measle & Bell.
"No lawsuit has been filed. We have notified the city's liability insurer of our intent to make a claim for the Sniders' damages," the statement said.
The Sniders had just been married at St. John's Lutheran Church on Pasadena Drive on May 21 when a police cruiser driven by Rowland collided with the Chrysler Sebring in which the Sniders were riding at Pasadena Drive and Nicholasville Road.
Instead of honeymooning in Cape May, N.J., the couple, along with Amy Snider's brother, Rodney Prothe, who was driving the convertible, ended up in the hospital.
Amy Snider was thrown from the vehicle, and she and Joe Snider each had broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Amy Snider spent a day in the hospital; Joe Snider was released after nearly four days.
Joe Snider said the two are recovering well.
"We're doing fine," he said. "I think we're getting to the point where things are finally healing."
It is not clear from a police report whether the Sniders were wearing their seat belts.
Police have said Rowland did not have his lights and sirens activated when he ran the red light and hit the convertible. Rowland had been talking to a participant in the Citizen Police Academy who was riding with him in the cruiser.
"He was talking to a ride-along and missed the light changing red," Lt. Chris Van Brackel said on the night of the wreck.
The traffic collision report says that Rowland "states that he looked up to realize his light was red and attempted to stop unsuccessfully ... ."
In a police news release issued late on the night of the crash, police said Rowland was "responding to a priority call" but had not activated his lights and sirens.
Under police policy, officers are allowed to respond to low-priority calls without using lights and sirens. Rowland was on the way to a report of child abuse, which is typically high priority.
However, police said Rowland was not using lights and sirens because of the unusual nature of the report — someone had called police about two juveniles selling cookies at Regency Shopping Center. The caller said the kids had said their uncle was forcing them to sell cookies.
Rowland and his passenger suffered minor injuries and were treated at Central Baptist Hospital and released. Rowland was back on active duty the following Monday.
A review of his personnel records, obtained under the Open Records Act, showed no prior disciplinary incidents for Rowland, who joined the force as a trainee in July 2007 and was appointed as a police officer in January 2009.
Typically, officers are disciplined if they have three at-fault crashes within 12 months, according to several years of police disciplinary reports.
On the first offense, a letter of counseling is issued. On the second offense, officers receive driver training; on the third offense, they receive a written reprimand and lose "home-fleet privileges" — the right to drive their cruisers home from work — for 80 hours.
Officers are sometimes reprimanded on the first offense if they are found to have broken a law or policy during a collision. Two officers — Kevin G. Jones and Jon C. Tucker — were reprimanded for not wearing seat belts during crashes in 2010 and lost home-fleet privileges, according to the reports.
While Jones and Tucker were disciplined internally, they were not ticketed. However, an officer who was at fault in a fatal collision seven years ago faced an internal investigation and criminal charges.
In May 2004, former Lexington officer John C. Lamb II was speeding down Harrodsburg Road without his lights and sirens on. His cruiser broadsided a vehicle driven by Rachel L. Burns, 24, killing her.
Lamb pleaded guilty to two moving violations for speeding without emergency lights and sirens, and police began an internal investigation after the plea was entered.
But Lamb, suspended with pay during the investigation, retired on total and permanent occupational disability in February 2005, about a month after he pleaded guilty.