Waterloo Regional Police respond to $500,000 lawsuit alleging negligence
KITCHENER -- Waterloo Regional Police are firing back against a $500,000 lawsuit filed by the family of a teen who was killed in a car that crashed during a 2017 police pursuit.
In October of that year someone called 911 saying they saw what looked like an abduction in front of a Cambridge pizzeria. It escalated into a police chase with speeds averaging 130 km/h.
The pursuit ended when Nathan Wehrle’s car crossed the center line on Highway 6 and crashed.
The Special Investigations Unit looked into the incident and cleared the responding officers of any wrongdoing. They said they were acting on information received from the 911 caller. The SIU also stated that Wehrle ignored officers and led them on a chase through the backroads of Puslinch.
But Hewitt’s family wasn’t satisfied with the SIU's decision.
Nearly two years after her death they filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the force, claiming the negligence of Waterloo Regional Police led to the crash. The family says that officers should “have known that a high-speed chase was dangerous” and they “escalated the situation and made the situation more dangerous for Taryn.”
Waterloo Regional Police filed their Statement of Defence in late December.
They claim it’s not them, but Hewitt, who was potentially negligent.
They state that the two responding officers acted lawfully in a suspect apprehension pursuit, based on the 911 call which claimed that the driver “was assaulting a female in her early 20’s” and he “forced her into his red vehicle.”
The caller also allegedly “had a clear view of the female passenger and she had a distressed look on her face that indicated ‘Help me.’”
The police board argues “the officers did not know, and could have not reasonably known the driver was 15 or that Taryn was a consenting passenger.”
The statement also says that “if the police officers were negligent, which is not admitted, but denied, Taryn Hewitt’s negligence contributed to the cause of the accident.” They claim that she did not ensure her own safety and did not get Wehrle to slow or stop the vehicle. It also alleges that Hewitt knew the car was stolen and chose to be a passenger anyway.
Family and Children's Services of Waterloo Region is also named in the Hewitt's lawsuit.
It claims the FACS “had custody of Nathan Wehrle, but allowed him to escape” and knew he had stolen vehicles. It also alleges they failed to adequately deal with Wehrle’s implusive behavior despite knowing that he was “prone to making bad decisions.”
The FACS has not filed a Statement of Defence at the time of CTV Kitchener’s reporting.