Family of Brusly teen killed during New Year’s Eve police chase sues officer, police departments

“Eight seconds before he entered the intersection, Officer Cauthron stated aloud, ‘This is going to hurt.’ At that precise moment in time, Officer Cauthron decided to barrel through the intersection at eighty-six (86) mph without ever applying his brakes and slowing down”

BATON ROUGE– The parents of one of the two Brusly teens killed in a New Year’s Eve crash with then-Addis officer David Cauthron are suing the officer, the Town of Addis, and East Baton Rouge Parish.

Caroline Gill’s parents, Jason Gill and Kim Elliott, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in the Middle District Court of Louisiana.

The lawsuit claims that Officer Cauthron and the Addis Police Department owed Caroline Gill, Maggie, and Liam Dunn a duty of care when driving in pursuit of a criminal.

Caroline Gill and Maggie Dunn

These duties included (1) not chasing a criminal outside of his jurisdiction, (2) not engaging in a chase with more than two units, (3) slowing his vehicle when approaching a stop light or stop sign, and (4) not exceed the speed limit when it may endanger life or property.

The complaint alleges Cauthron violated these duties under the Addis Pursuit Policy and Louisiana law. They also allege that since Cauthron continued the pursuit in Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Pursuit Policy applies to his actions. The complaint alleges that his negligence was the cause of Caroline’s death.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that Cauthron and the Addis Police Department violated constitutional rights. The complaint states that Caroline’s parents were supposed to be afforded due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is argued that Cauthron misused his police unit by using excessive speed and not using reasonable standards to slow down in an intersection.

David Cauthron

The complaint alleges Officer Cauthorn used excessive force, which is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The excessive force is described as physical force that restrained the victims’ movement, which was caused by him intentionally entering the intersection in an extreme and illegal manner.

The complaint includes the City of Addis, Addis Police Department, City-Parish of East Baton Rouge, and BRPD. Officers from both Addis and City-Parish engaged in the high-speed chase that jumped from East Baton Rouge to West Baton Rouge.

Fatal crash

The lawsuit accuses Cauthron and five BRPD control officers of engaging in a pursuit beyond their jurisdiction and repeatedly engaging in reckless and dangerous driving practices.

“Eleven seconds before reaching the intersection of La. 1 and E. St. Francis St., Officer Cauthron observed multiple innocent bystander motorists crossing a busy intersection at noon during a holiday,” the lawsuit states. “Eight seconds before he entered the intersection, Officer Cauthron stated aloud, ‘This is going to hurt.’ At that precise moment in time, Officer Cauthron decided to barrel through the intersection at eighty-six (86) mph without ever applying his brakes and slowing down, knowing that he would almost certainly injure an innocent bystander motorist(s) crossing the intersection.”

Around noon last New Year’s Eve, Baton Rouge police got a call that 24-year-old Tyquel Zanders had stolen his father’s car. That call resulted in a high-speed chase around the Raising Cane’s River Center, down Government Street, and eventually across the Mississippi River into West Baton Rouge. There, officers from Brusly and Addis joined the chase.

Two girls, best friends, Caroline Gill & Maggie Dunn, died in the crash. Maggie’s brother Liam Dunn was also in the car and was rushed to a hospital.

Liam Dunn stayed in the hospital for nearly a month, recovering from his injuries. Cauthron was arrested two days later.

Crash fallout

After the crash, a legislative task force was set up to recommend pursuit changes statewide.

Cauthron was placed on leave following the accident and was arrested on Jan. 2 for two counts of negligent homicide. Cauthron’s bond was set at $100,000, and he bonded out of jail on Jan. 8.

The Addis Town Council accepted Cauthron’s resignation on Feb. 1. A grand jury indicted him on Feb. 24 on more charges that included two counts of manslaughter, with the underlying felony being one count of aggravated obstruction of a highway, one count of malfeasance, one count negligent injury and one count reckless operation.

Cauthron’s trial is set to begin on March 18, 2024.

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