A police officer intentionally drove over a Black driver who fled on foot from a traffic stop that involved multiple police departments in Kansas, according to a new lawsuit. Lionel Womack, a former police officer, filed the lawsuit Thursday and said that dashcam video from the encounter this past summer corroborates his allegations, the Associated Press reported.
Womack, 35, whose lawsuit alleges he “sustained serious injuries to his back, pelvis and thigh as well as to his right knee, ankle and foot,” says there was no justification for him to be pulled over.
In spite of his claims, Womack has been in jail for more than four months now on related felony charges accusing him of attempting to elude a law enforcement officer by driving recklessly and interfering with a law enforcement officer. He was also hit with misdemeanor charges of failure to drive in the right lane on a four-lane highway, improper signal and driving without headlights.
He said he had done nothing wrong when a cop initiated the traffic stop at night on Aug. 15 in the town of Belle Plaine, which is about 30 miles north of Wichita. Womack — who, as a former police officer, is likely well aware of how far too many traffic stops with Black drivers end in police violence, death or both — admitted to panicking when more police cars pulled up, prompting him to decide to run away through an adjacent field.
“When the first officer turned his lights on, I pulled over and complied … exactly as you’re supposed to. But when three additional vehicles pulled up quickly and started to surround my car, I freaked out. That’s when I took off, it was a ‘fight or flight’ moment and I was going to live,” Womack said in a statement. “I felt like I was in danger. This was out in the country, late at night, and it was dark. So I ran for my life. That’s what you see in the dashcam video. I’m running in an open field, and I’m scared.”
The lawsuit names Kiowa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez as the driver of the car that run over Womack, who said he was unarmed, sober, not speeding and had no outstanding warrants when he was pulled over. The Associated Press reported that Womack was not wearing a shirt when he was run over.
The video follows below and is graphic.
The Associated Press described the video’s contents after Womack fled:
“The dashcam footage from a Pratt County sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle shows Rodriguez using his patrol truck to catch up to Womack, who was unarmed.
Rodriguez swerves his truck to hit Womack, knocking him to the ground and running over him. Womack rolls out from under the truck, his arms and legs flailing on the ground as someone on the video shouts, ‘lie down, lie down.’ A deputy in the second patrol truck can be heard uttering an expletive as he watches what is happening.”
Womack’s lawyer called the video “disturbing” and described a scene where police had no reason to resort to using any force.
“It is impossible to watch a video of a deputy driving his truck over Mr. Womack without feeling sick,” Michael Kuckelman told the AP. “There was nowhere for Mr. Womack to go. It was an open field, and he was trapped, yet the deputy drove his truck over him anyway.”
Womack’s wife, mother and multiple other members of his family either work as police officers or in law enforcement capacities.
“To me it showed a blatant disregard for human life,” Zee Womack said of the dashcam video showing her husband getting run over.