CLERMONT COUNTY, OH (FOX19) - A Butler County couple is suing former Goshen Police Chief Ray Snyder, Goshen Sergeant Ron Robinson and four other Goshen officers after a January 2014 police chase ended with a multiple vehicle crash and the couple sustaining serious injuries.
The suit also names Miami Township and one of its officers as defendants.
An internal investigation shows the chase started after Goshen Police tried to set up a Dayton-area suspected heroin dealer in a sting near Goshen. Goshen officers used a confidential informant to lure the suspect to town, the report shows, and were warned a chase would likely result.
And, it did.
THE SET UP
A morning meeting on Jan. 10, 2014 between former Goshen Police Chief Ray Snyder and Sergeant Ron Robinson allowed the men to lay out a game plan for capturing a man police claimed was a known heroin dealer from Dayton. The plan, an internal report shows, was for Robinson and a team of Goshen officers to pull the suspect over, then arrest him on drug charges.
During the planning stages of this sting, Clermont County drug agents warned Goshen of the potential for a chase in this particular case, the town's attorney told FOX19. Chief Snyder also recognized the potential for a chase and told Robinson to not allow a chase to happen, the internal investigation shows.
The plan was for officers to stop the suspect, Dion Collins, down Highway 28 near the Eagles Nest Golf Course. The area, the report shows, had a low population count, reducing the risks of innocent bystanders being caught in a potential gunfight.
FOX19 NOW submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Goshen Police for copies of all patrol camera recordings of this incident. The copies were provided by the Clermont County Prosecutor's Office.
In the video, Goshen Police Officer Matt Bucksath, is following Collins' silver Chrysler 300 along Highway 28. The sting is going as planned until Bucksath turns on his blue lights. Collins appears to initially comply with the traffic stop, pulling over to the right hand side of the road.
Collins then makes a u-turn in the middle of the highway and speeds away from the two patrol cars trailing him.
With speeds topping 111 miles an hour along the busiest highway through Goshen and Miami Townships, the suspect and officers ended up in a chase that spanned 4.2 miles. Onboard camera data shows officers reaching 111 miles an hour and Collins' Chrysler continues to pull farther away.
The internal report shows Goshen officers safely maneuvered through intersections along the chase route, reducing to safer speeds as they went through red lights in Miami Township.
But, officers lost sight of Collins' car after two and a half minutes into the three minute, 42 second chase, according to the internal review. Collins later crashed head on into four sitting vehicles.
Goshen Police Captain Bob Rose completed the internal investigation into the chase. One of the objectives in the report was to determine whether any of Goshen's officers violated department policy by participating in the chase.
Rose stated several times in the report that the crash was a result of Dion Collins' attempts to run from police. The crash, according to Rose, was not caused by police.
"…the pursuit should have never happened," Rose wrote in his report. "The most crucial breakdown was that of supervision," Rose stated.
Rose's review found Sergeant Ron Robinson ignored a director order from Chief Snyder to not participate in a chase if Collins was to run from officers. The review states, "The moment that Sgt. Robinson realized that a pursuit was occurring, it was his duty to stop it," Rose wrote.
The investigation also found Robinson did not hold a briefing with the officers under his command, warning them of the risks and "what ifs" of an operations such as this, Rose wrote in his report. Goshen Police Department does have a policy requiring "a formal operational briefing when serving search warrants" and "when conducting a C.I. (confidential informant) directly-involved drug transaction," but there was no such policy mandating a briefing "for this type of activity," Rose continued.
Rose recommended "remedial training" for Robinson to address his "Organizational and Command Structure policy" failures. Rose also recommended "remedial training" in the department's "Vehicle Operation and Pursuit Policy" for Goahen Officers Bucksath, Cody Collier, Dillon West and Tim Budai.
We asked for disciplinary records for Ron Robinson, but the city's attorney told FOX19 none exist.
While in Goshen investigating a separate case in early August, we found out about threats of a lawsuit over this chase and the injuries to one of the victims. After multiple checks of the Clermont County clerk's office, a filing showed up on August 17.
In the filing, Donald and Judith Felty sued Goshen Township, former Chief Ray Snyder, Sergeant Ron Robinson, Officer Matthew Bucksath, Officer Dillon West, Officer Cody Collier, Officer Tim Budai, Miami Township and Miami Township Police Officer Ryan Frasher.
The lawsuit alleges all defendants were negligent in their official duties by initiating a chase that led to the serious injuries of Judith Felty.
Felty told FOX19 NOW she suffered a broken neck, broken wrist, broken knee, broken ankle, a head injury, loss of hearing and eyesight and multiple other injuries that kept her bedridden for months. Felty also underwent four months of rehabilitation and said she's scheduled for more surgeries stemming from injuries sustained in the crash.
The Feltys were the first car Dion Collins slammed into as he ran from police. The impact hit the passenger side of the Felty's Fiat, pushing the car into three other vehicles.
The day of the crash was the first time Judith Felty left home after a battle with cancer. She had just finished her final chemotherapy treatments.
"It was the first time in three months that she had left the house," Don Felty told FOX19.
"There were some points where I really, really did not think I was going to live and I didn't tell anyone. Never really told anyone," Judith Felty said during an interview earlier this month. Felty said she did not remember the impact and only regained consciousness a few minutes afterward.
"I came to for a second and I saw a whole bunch of white—what I thought was clouds—I thought I was in Heaven," Judith said. "I really didn't know if I was going to live."
Don Felty said he was able to climb from his car and noticed his wife was badly injured. It didn't take him long to figure out what happened that led to the crash, "Someone, when I got out of the car, said it was a high speed police chase. I was furious at that point," Felty said.
Police were chasing Dion Collins, under the assumption Collins had heroin he intended to deliver to Goshen Township for a drug transaction with the police department's confidential informant. There were two other people inside Collins' car.
The Ohio State Patrol's investigative report shows Collins initially told Troopers he was not driving the car. Troopers said they knew right away that was not true, "Nobody say anybody exit the vehicle other than Mr. Collins when he was arrested. Nobody saw anybody leave the scene," Sgt. Charles Jordan told FOX19.
On July 10, 2014, Collins pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular assault and one count of failure to stop for blue lights. Clerk of court records show in the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a second count of failure to stop and also dropped a heroin trafficking charge that the county grand jury had indicted Collins on shortly after the crash.
Collins received a two year sentence and a 25 year driver's license suspension.
The Feltys blame Goshen Police for everything that happened that day.
"I felt like these kids were set up and this man who came after them literally caused a lot of people injury and pain for the rest of our lives," Judith Felty said.
FOX19 made multiple attempts to contact Sgt. Ron Robinson and former Chief Ray Snyder. Robinson's attorney responded days later, denying our request for comment and an interview.
As of this posting, Ray Snyder has not responded.
There is an answer to the complaint filed where the defendants deny the allegations outlined in the Felty complaint, citing a state statute that provides immunity to police departments from liability when police chases go wrong.