Former students files $2 million lawsuit against BGPD

Abbey Brown

Exactly one year after a high-speed chase through Bowling Green, a former Western student has filed a $2 million civil suit against a Bowling Green police officer.

Mark Jeffery, who now attends the University of Louisville, claims an officer used excessive force during his Feb. 10, 2002, arrest. The excessive force in question occurred when he was arrested — he claims a police dog attacked him and an officer stomped on his wrist.

He was advised by his attorney B. Alan Simpson not to comment for this story.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in District Court, names Officer Kevin Renfrow, former Bowling Green Police Department chief Gary Raymer and the city of Bowling Green as defendants.

A 2002 police report said Bowling Green police officer Timothy Wilson attempted to stop Jeffery for driving under the influence, which led to both a high speed car and foot chase. The chase ended after a police dog apprehended Jeffery, the police report said.

The lawsuit claims that without provocation or warning, Renfrow ordered his dog Blitz to attack Jeffery, who was unarmed and posed no physical threat.

“This was a vicious attack,” Simpson said.

The suit also claims that, as a result, Jeffery has suffered “severe physical and mental pain and distress, [and] medical expenses, both past and future,” which may affect his ability to earn an income.

“While we recognize that a police officer has a right to stop someone when they are running, they do not have the right to turn a dog loose that attacks a defendant who is not a threat to anyone,” Simpson said. “That is clearly an excessive use of force.”

City Attorney Gene Harmon said the case was turned over to the Kentucky League of Cities, which handles the city’s liability coverage. KLC will assign an attorney to the case.

“We will vigorously defend the actions of the police department,” Harmon said.

In a police report, Wilson recalled the night’s events as follows:

He saw Jeffery’s 1993 Ford Ranger pick-up truck driving in the middle of the 600 block of East Main Street around 4 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2002.

The truck, still weaving from side to side, did not stop after Wilson activated his flashing lights and sirens.

Wilson said the truck continued driving around the neighborhood, disregarding stop lights, stop signs and traveling at speeds as high as 70 mph. During this time, Wilson called dispatch and requested help.

Wilson was eventually told by Sgt. Joseph Manning to stop the pursuit but to keep the vehicle in sight at a safe speed.

Officers Renfrow and Michael Rexroat were in separate cars at the intersection of 15th Street and Nutwood Avenue as Jeffery turned into an alleyway west of Nutwood.

Jeffrey’s truck skid to a rolling stop, and he fled. The truck rolled backwards, hitting Renfrow’s police car. Neither vehicle was damaged.

Wilson said Renfrow had sent the police dog after Jeffery, who was running toward Nutwood Avenue.

He saw Jeffery on the ground — in the middle of the street, on his back, attempting to kick the dog off him.

Wilson said he heard Renfrow yelling at Jeffery in “very clear verbal orders” not to fight the dog. He said the dog had Jeffery’s right calf in his mouth.

Wilson and Rexroat handcuffed Jeffery as Renfrow took control of of the dog, according to the police report.

Simpson said when Renfrow finally called the dog off Jeffery, he also “stomped” on his wrist, breaking it.

The report stated that Jeffery was taken to The Medical Center for treatment of the dog bite wounds he sustained on his upper right thigh and right calf.

The police report stated that Jeffery was “extremely intoxicated” and kept saying he was sorry he ran.

Jeffery refused a blood test to measure his blood alcohol content, according to the report.

Jeffery was indicted March, 13, 2002, for fleeing or evading a police officer, wanton endangerment, driving under the influence third offense within five years, operating on a suspended license for a violation of DUI and reckless driving.

Simpson said the lawsuit won’t be over quickly — he expects the process to take about a year.

Abbey Brown can be reached at [email protected]