Scott County

Man was hit by van after police left him at McDonald’s. Family is suing over his death.

Georgetown Police Chief Mike Bosse is among the defendants named in a federal suit that claims the department was negligent in the death of a London man.
Georgetown Police Chief Mike Bosse is among the defendants named in a federal suit that claims the department was negligent in the death of a London man. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

The death of a London man who was hit by a van could have been prevented had not Georgetown police officers left him at a restaurant, claims a wrongful death suit filed in U.S. District Court.

Keith G. Burns, 48, was initially taken into custody for erratic driving but police later “abandoned” him at a local McDonald’s at night, “dressed in dark clothing” and with “no means of safe transport,” the suit says.

Among the defendants named in the complaint are Georgetown Police Chief Mike Bosse, officers Nicholas Lodal and Gary Crump, and the city of Georgetown.

“I am familiar with the complaint and we have reviewed the incident from the very beginning, and we feel firmly that the Georgetown officers responded appropriately,” Bosse said Monday.

The suit was brought by Lisa K. Williams, the sister of Burns and the administratrix of his estate.

Georgetown police had pulled over Burns after he was reported to be driving erratically on Oct. 2. He was taken into custody and his truck was impounded, the suit says.

Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Oct. 2, Georgetown police called Burns’s brother-in-law, Les Williams, and told him to come to Georgetown and get Burns. Williams said it would take about an hour to get to Georgetown from London.

Williams didn’t arrive in Georgetown until about 11 p.m. because he had to wait until his wife returned from a church service, and he had to stop for gas and a restroom break while on the way to Scott County, the suit says.

When Williams got to Georgetown, he called police dispatch and was told that Burns had been “dropped off” at a McDonald’s at 171 Southgate Drive, near the intersection of U.S. 25 and the U.S. 460 Bypass. “However, Mr. Burns was not there, nor had anyone employed at McDonald’s seen the police drop anyone off or Mr. Burns (who, at 6 feet 2 inches and 300 pounds, would have been hard to miss),” the suit says.

Williams drove around in a vain search to find Burns. At about midnight, Williams called dispatch and gave his cell phone number to call in the event that Burns was found. After he reached Interstate 75 to return home, Williams was called again by a female dispatcher who gave him a number to call and told him “they have your brother-in-law.”

“Mr. Williams called the number only to discover that it was the coroner’s office,” the suit says.

Burns had been struck on U.S. 25 by a northbound vehicle, police said at the time. The suit says Burns had been walking in the roadway less than 2 miles from the McDonald’s on Southgate when he was struck and killed by a van just before midnight.

An accident report indicated that Burns was “not visible” because he was dressed in “dark clothing,” the suit says.

“Mr. Burns was obviously suffering from a serious medical condition when he was arrested – that’s why, instead of being incarcerated, defendants contacted his family and directed that they come pick him up,” the suit says.

“But instead of keeping Mr. Burns in custody while awaiting the arrival of his family, or taking him to the hospital, defendants abandoned him at a local McDonald’s at night, dressed in dark clothing, with no prior notice to his family, and no means of safe transport,” the suit says.

The suit claims the conduct of Georgetown police was “intentional, reckless, deliberate, wanton and/or malicious.” The estate says the death of Burns was preventable, and that it is entitled to recover damages, including punitive damages “in order to deter such conduct in the future.”

The suit seeks a trial by jury.

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