South Bend, former officer face wrongful death lawsuit

By The Associated Press

SOUTH BEND — Relatives of a young mother who was killed in July when her car was struck by a police officer who ran a red light are suing him and the city of South Bend for negligence.

The family of Erica Flores, 22, filed the federal wrongful death lawsuit Friday seeking a jury trial and compensatory damages, The South Bend Tribune reported.

The filing alleges Justin Gorny was negligent and that the city didn’t properly train him. The city declined comment, citing pending litigation. Gorny’s attorney, John Kautzman, declined comment Tuesday to The Associated Press, saying he had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Gorny was driving about 90 mph (145 kph) while responding to a reckless driver call when he ran a red light July 20 and crashed into Flores’ vehicle, according to police. Gorny only used his lights and siren intermittently prior to the crash, police said.

“Defendant Gorny then and there acted with knowledge that the risk of death was significant, but consciously refused to prevent it,” the lawsuit said. “The risk of death resulting from defendant Gorny’s actions was obvious and/or known.”

A grand jury declined to indict Gorny in August, but Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski requested the officer’s termination in September in a letter to the city’s Board of Public Safety.

“Officer Gorny violated several rules and engaged in conduct that was both injurious to the public peace or welfare and unbecoming of an officer,” Ruszkowski wrote.

The board fired Gorny in November after a two-day disciplinary hearing.

Multiple officers at the hearing testified that officers who work the overnight shift typically drive fast, sometimes without using lights or sirens to avoid alerting a potential suspect. Officers said they often have to travel at faster speeds because calls at night tend to be more violent and there are fewer officers available.

More on