Tragedy And Farce - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1825541

Tragedy And Farce

I just read with disappointment and dismay that a new lawsuit against Quogue has been filed in the case of the tragic July automobile accident in Quogue [“Second Wrongful Death Claim In Quogue Fatal Crash Targets Police And Village,”, October 5]. Having previously retained a law firm to sue Suffolk County (also on spurious grounds), the plaintiff has now moved on to Quogue, transmogrifying the situation from the realm of profound and heartfelt tragedy to the one of avidity and farce.

In the complaint, the plaintiff is alleging that the Quogue Village Police failed to act in a professional manner and is seeking $40 million. Recall the facts: The perpetrator of this terrible tragedy, Justin Mendez, was driving along Montauk Highway near Route 104 when he was clocked by the police as going well over the speed limit. The Quogue policeman immediately commenced a pursuit.

Mendez apparently sped up and, immediately prior to the crash, was going in excess of 100 mph, as recorded by the automobile’s “black box” [“Details Emerge In Quogue Fatal Crash, Driver’s Speed Clocked at Over 100 MPH,”, October 8].

Anyone who has driven around the Montauk Highway curve where the accident occurred knows about the flashing lights and the sign that says “30 mph.” So, to negotiate that turn at anywhere near 100 mph is, well, suicidal — and, in this case, possibly homicidal as well.

So, enter the law firm, who has now advanced an argument that in pursuing the perpetrator, the Quogue Village Police erroneously induced the perpetrator to increase his speed, thus, ipso facto, leading him to lose control of his vehicle and cause the accident. Huh?

This line of argument fails on a number of fronts. First, historical: Police have been chasing speeding drivers since Henry Ford invented the Model T. This is what cops do, particularly in smaller towns where there is little or no serious crime.

Most law-abiding drivers would slow down after they see the familiar flashing light in the rearview mirror — but not this perpetrator. He apparently sped up and turned off his lights. Now, had the pursuit continued, the Quogue Police would probably have radioed ahead for further support, but to suggest that they had no responsibility to initially pursue is tantamount to suggesting that the police should not be enforcing our laws.

The law firm wants to portray the Quogue policeman as some sort of “Dirty Harry” Callahan who routinely endangers citizens, unnecessarily, in the pursuit of perpetrators. That interpretation is about as far from the truth as Inspector Callahan’s .44 Magnum is from the smallish Glock 45 model carried by the Quogue police force.

So, with substantial and meritorious arguments on their side, I truly hope that our Quogue Village officials will oppose this complaint vigorously and not consider settling.

Mark J. Schulte