The family of a Fircrest man who was hit and killed by a University Place Police officer in September 2011 has reached a $1.65 million settlement with Pierce County.
The family's lawyer, Michael J. McKasy, released the following statement today:
The estate of a Fircrest man who was killed when a Pierce County Deputy Sheriff hit his moped has settled it’s claim with Pierce County for $1,650,000.
Dale Neel was 61 years old and driving home from work on his moped when Deputy Jason Smith approached in the opposite direction travelling over 55 mph to a traffic stop already covered by another deputy and a Tacoma city policeman.
Smith had his lights and siren on, so Neel moved from his position in the center turn lane to the curb. Smith inexplainable crossed the center lane and entered the opposing lane, striking Neel at the curb. Neel died an hour later in the hospital.
Smith was working under contract at the time for the City of University Place. He had a history of 5 prior accidents, 3 of which had been determined to be “preventable” by the Pierce County Sheriff’s office.
Neel was survived by his wife, Linda, and two adult children. Mike McKasy, attorney for the estate, said that as part of the settlement, Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor agreed to meet with Linda Neel to discuss what changes could be made to emergency responses by deputies that could avoid another tragedy.
Pierce County released its own statement that said, in part, that a board determined the accident was "non-preventable":
This was a tragic accident which resulted in the loss of life, and for that the department has offered its condolences to the family of Mr. Neel with the hope that this settlement will bring some peace and closure to the matter.
The Sheriff referred this matter to an outside agency for the accident investigation. Following an Accident Review Board hearing it was determined that the accident, which occurred while deputies were responding to a potential felony attempting to elude a police vehicle, was non-preventable.
The Sheriff met with the family to hear their concerns. The department is always looking into ways to better serve the public.
Patch will have more information on this story as it becomes available.