Lawyer for a family suing Manchester Police over disputes over son’s death in motorcycle crash
CEDAR RAPIDS – A lawyer representing parents suing Manchester Police over a high-speed motorbike chase that resulted in the death of their 31-year-old son last year said he was not accepting “at face value “the department’s statement that dashcam or Body camera videos are not available because none have been activated.
Augustin Mormann (photo submitted)
“Not everything that smells bad is rotten, but it stinks to its heart,” said David O’Brien, the Cedar Rapids attorney representing Sandra and Daniel Mormann in their lawsuit over their son’s death, said Augustin “Gus” Mormann of Colesburg. “I plan to get to the bottom of what happened. It is a scandalous excuse.
O’Brien said that typically when a patrol car’s lights and sirens are activated, the dashcam is also activated. He was told Manchester had modified their police vehicles so that cameras were not activated when lights were on. O’Brien said he had no idea why this was done.
O’Brien just learned of the lack of video last month when the Iowa State Patrol released its Technical and Reconstruction Investigation Report.
“This video would be the best proof,” said O’Brien.
An Iowa State Patrol investigator, in the report O’Brien provided to The Gazette on Monday, appeared to agree, saying his conclusion of the accident is “inconclusive, due to lack of video evidence , as to the circumstances surrounding the full sequence of the collision, and how contact was made between the Manchester police vehicle driven by Lt. Jim Wessels, and the motorcycle, driven by Augustin Mormann.
Manchester Police Chief Jim Hauschild said on Monday he would pass the request for comment to the city’s prosecutor.
The parents’ trial
The lawsuit, filed in May, claimed that Wessels’ decision on December 10, 2020, to continue the pursuit of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, driven by Mormann, through the city of Manchester was not justified solely for an offense of suspended license – a misdemeanor.
An Iowa State Patrol soldier launched Mormann westbound chase on Highway 20 after Mormann was driving at high speed – accelerating from 99 to 107 mph – then fled after being pulled over , according to the lawsuit. But the soldier ended the chase because it would be dangerous to continue within city limits with increased traffic, the lawsuit and a search warrant affidavit said.
A Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputy who had also joined the lawsuit ended his lawsuit for the same reasons.
The lawsuit said Wessels chose to continue the pursuit through town. Any “legitimate” reason to continue the prosecution was outweighed by the fact that the suspect had been identified and was only wanted for a serious crime, the prosecution claims.
The lawsuit noted that Wessels’ police vehicle made two contact – on opposite sides – with the motorcycle. The lawsuit claimed that this led to the “inevitable conclusion” that Wessels caused the crash and, therefore, “intentionally killed Mormann”.
Mormann died of his injuries on January 15. An autopsy indicates that the cause of death was neck trauma – injuries to the spinal cord – and the type of death was an accident.
O’Brien had previously told The Gazette that the officer’s account of the crash didn’t seem to make sense as Mormann was running away from the officer.
Iowa State Patrol Report
The summary of the collision in the state patrol report is similar to the accident account of the trial.
In Wessels’ report, according to the state patrol investigative report, he said the motorcycle “swerved violently” and appeared to be slowing down. Wessels said he braked heavily and swerved to the westbound lane. Mormann then accelerated and passed Wessels on the right half of the road when Morman hit his passenger side mirror, Wessels said.
Wessels then said Mormann was gone from sight, and he turned around with his patrol vehicle and saw Mormann lying face down in the south ditch, according to the state patrol report.
The State Patrol investigator contacted Hauschild, the Manchester Police Chief, who said videos and reports of the officers involved would be ready on January 12. 14.
On February 18, Hauschild was contacted again, requesting a dashcam or bodycam video from Wessels. Hauschild said: “Lieutenant. Wessels did not have time to activate the video from his patrol car and he did not activate his body camera.
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office sent the State Patrol a CD containing dashcam video of the vehicle of a deputy, who was also originally involved in the pursuit.
O’Brien said if Manchester Police knew there was no video of Wessels’ body camera and patrol car, why did they wait months later to tell the patrol state and why would they modify their vehicles in this way.
“It doesn’t change anything for us (the trial), but I hope they are telling the truth. We’ll find out, ”O’Brien said.
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