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Mission sued over 2021 police chase wreck

An innocent bystander severely injured in a high-speed Mission Police Department chase in 2021 sued earlier this month both the city and the man pursued in the chase, alleging they were negligent leading up to the collision that changed his life.

The car wreck that injured Enrique Rodriguez — at the time a 19-year-old delivery driver planning to be a nursing student — made headlines and prompted the brief suspensions of eight Mission police officers.

In a suit seeking between $250,000 and $1 million, Rodriguez alleges that the pursuit those officers engaged in was unreasonably risky and extremely dangerous, and that they should have realized that was the case.

Rodriguez’s injuries in the crash, the suit alleges, were the result of that negligence and of the negligence of the man they pursued.

“Mr. Rodriguez lost consciousness and woke up over a week later in the hospital,” the suit says. “Mr. Rodriguez remained in the hospital for over a month suffering numerous medical procedures and enduring excruciating therapy, even learning to walk again. Mr. Rodriguez had no idea that when he proceeded through the green light that he would endure life-altering injuries.”

It started with a faulty license plate light.

A little before 5 a.m. on Sept. 21 of 2021, police officer Samuel Monjaras attempted to pull over a car in Mission driven by Samuel Martinez that had a defective light over its rear license plate.

Enrique Rodriguez. (Photo courtesy of Darren Hernandez via GoFundMe.)

Another vehicle, driven by Jose Alfredo Lopez, distracted Monjaras and pulled between the officer and Martinez’s cars.

Monjaras suspected that the car driven by Martinez could be linked to drugs or human smuggling, according to documents from an internal investigation.

Officers pursued him — at one point reaching speeds of 125 mph — to San Juan, where Martinez collided with Rodriguez’s car at an intersection.

“At some point, Officer Monjares (sic) should have realized that the chase was not worth the unreasonable danger and either slowed down or stopped chasing Mr. Martinez,” Rodriguez’s suit says. “However, Officer Monjares (sic), with subjective knowledge of the risk this chase posed to the public, deliberately disregarded that risk and continued the chase.”

Martinez pleaded guilty to accident involving serious bodily injury, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest or detention with a vehicle, and a judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison along with $386,000 in restitution.

Lopez pleaded guilty and received deferred adjudication.

An internal review launched a month after the wreck preceded the suspension of eight Mission police officers in early 2022.

Officers in the chase violated department policy, which only allows pursuit if “the need to immediately apprehend the suspect outweighs any substantial risk of harm to the public.”

The city suspended eight officers involved without pay for between seven and 17 days after the investigation, according to internal documents that frequently noted officers’ ignorance of the reason for the chase.

Rodriguez, now a nursing student at South Texas College, sustained a traumatic brain injury in the crash.

He alleges in his suit that he suffered physical disfigurement and impairment, medical expenses, and financial loss, along with other damages.

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