MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – The family of a teenager who died in a collision with a former Chickasaw police officer has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.
The suit, filed last week in Mobile County Circuit Court, seeks unspecified damages against the city of Chickasaw and former Officer Joseph Michael Hand.
“We’re here today, and we shouldn’t be, frankly,” said John Givens, an attorney who represents the family of Kenya Reed, an 18-year-old McIntosh High School senior who was a cheerleader and basketball player and who was on track to be the school’s valedictorian.
Givens said Reed had just left her mother’s house after dinner and was on her way home on Jan, 10 of last year.
Givens said during a news conference that Reed was getting off of Interstate 65 and at a stop sign when Hand’s patrol vehicle collided with her on West Lee Street. He said the vehicle was traveling 95 mph in a 30 mph zone. It was a “known dangerous location” where a hill obstructed the driver’s view, the lawyer said.
“Driving the way he was driving that day was, frankly, inexcusable,” he said.
Hand, 31, of Mobile, could not immediately be reached for comment, and Chickasaw City Hall had no comment on the suit. Chickasaw City Attorney Nash Campbell also did not immediately return call seeking comment, nor did Brent Day, a lawyer who represented Hand in a criminal case arising from the wreck.
Earlier this year, a Mobile County Circuit Court judge dismissed that charge – criminally negligent homicide – after agreeing with the defense that the indictment came after the one-year statute of limitations for the misdemeanor. Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Louis Walker said prosecutors could seek a new indictment alleging a different offense.
“Whether or not we will ever seek another indictment will be up to – we haven’t made that decision yet, but there is no statute of limitations for any other homicide offense if prosecution is deemed warranted for that,” he said.
Hand, according to Givens, left the Chickasaw Police Department and was working as an officer in Citronelle when a grand jury handed up the indictment. He resigned from that job.
The civil complaint alleges that Hand has a “history of reckless operation of police vehicles.” It cites an incident in June 2020 in which Hand was involved in a high-speed chase and crashed into a Saraland police officer’s cruiser despite instructions to back off the pursuit.
“There are prior events involving this particular driver in his capacity as a police officer,” Givens said. “It would leave reasonable minds to conclude that he was not the right person situated for the job and was improperly trained.”
Reed’s family attended Thursday’s news conference and spoke of the impact she had on her school and community. They described her as a magnet who attracted people by the force of her personality.
“Kenya was a go-getter – she was a go-getter,” said her aunt, Jessica West, choking back tears. “Whatever she set her mind into doing, she did. Difficulties came, but she did not let that outdo her.”
West said it was particularly difficult talking about Reed’s death to her young nephews and nieces.
“It was hard for us to explain to them that Kenya’s no longer here. ‘Well, where’s she at?’ Kenya’s no longer here. ‘Well, she’ll be back.’ No. She will not be back.”
Brittany Simmons, who taught Reed all four years she was in high school, called her a “teacher’s dream” in the classroom.
“She just always answered that call to whatever needed to be done,” she said. “She would do it. And that’s the thing that I remember.”
Givens vowed to hold the Chickasaw and Hand responsible.
“I promise you we will do that will do everything in our power to attain that justice and attain that accountability. … To steal a line from her mother, I’ve been told that you didn’t meet Kenya; you experienced her.”
Updated at 3:37 p.m. to include a no-comment response from Chickasaw City Hall and information about a previous accident detailed in the civil complaint.
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