SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — A family filed a lawsuit against the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department for injuries sustained during a freeway pursuit that ended when a deputy fatally shot the suspect from a helicopter.
On Sept. 18, deputies chased a suspect who failed to yield to a traffic stop onto the 215 Freeway. The suspect entered the freeway by way of an off-ramp, and drove the wrong way at speeds approaching 100 miles an hour.
In a rare move, the deputy shot from a helicopter. The suspect crashed head-on into Villegas’ sport utility vehicle with their 13-year-old son in the back seat.
It’s a day that Maria and Jose Villegas say changed their lives forever.
“He told me, ‘Mom, help! Mom, help,” Villegas said of her son, Aldo, who is still in the hospital months later.
He spoke with CBS2 via cellphone and said he broke both arms and a hip problem got worse. He needed surgery and physical therapy and says he still can’t walk.
Jose Villegas broke an ankle and says he had respiratory complications, while Maria broke six ribs and has a permanent wrist problem.
The family says none of this would have happened if the deputy didn’t shoot nine times from the sky during Friday afternoon traffic.
They’ve filed a lawsuit, alleging negligence and battery, among other causes of action.
“It’s bad because it’s a lot of people in the freeway,” said Villegas.
In the days following the incident last year, a Sheriff’s lieutenant said they are cautious.
“We’ve all seen the crazy pursuits that happen, where people are going through intersections at a 100 [mph] plus,” said Lt. Mitch Dattilo. “In some of those cases, we wouldn’t be able to shoot. It really depends on what that backdrop is.”
The Villegas family says they’ll keep fighting to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department says they haven’t received the lawsuit yet.