Omaha, NE—A high speed chase and crash that ended with one man dead, the state trooper involved in the chase changing his story, and the dead man’s brother screaming to know why the trooper “rammed” their car, has raised a series of questions.
A News Channel Nebraska investigation includes the trooper’s in-car video of the chase that reached speeds estimated at 80 miles an hour before the victim’s car flipped several times along with a rare look inside a criminal grand jury procedure that found some jurors seemingly confused.
An examination of the Nebraska State Patrol’s handling of last October’s pursuit and crash in a remote corner of the state largely involves a little used police technique known as tactical vehicle intervention or TVI.
According to testimony before the grand jury, the patrol began using TVI’s in 2011. Of some 400 chases since then TVI’s were used about 10 percent of the time.
The chase under scrutiny starts just before 10:30 p.m. on October 3 when a silver Mercury Sable with no license plates apparently runs a stop sign near Gordon, Nebraska; that’s enough for Trooper Tim Flick to start his pursuit eventually asking for and receiving permission to perform the TVI.
Nearly seven minutes later the two cars apparently hit, the Sable veering right and flipping. Three passengers were injured, the driver who was ejected died at the scene as Flick blurts out “crap” when he realizes the man is dead.
Because 32-year-old Antoine LaDeaux technically died in police custody the case wound up before a Sheridan County Grand Jury which heard evidence that LaDeaux was not wearing a seat belt, was driving drunk— nearly three times the legal limit— with some marijuana in his system.
In the end the 16-member grand jury—after deliberating no more than 35 minutes—concluded there was “no criminal conduct on the part of any individual” and no charges were filed.
At the same time though largely due to Flick’s contradictory explanation of what happened that night along with the arguably curious testimony of the patrol’s TVI expert, some members of the grand jury had their share of questions as did Sheridan County Attorney Jamian Simmons.
News Channel Nebraska asked Simmons about the outcome.
NCN: Were you surprised with the grand jury’s decision?
County Attorney: Was I surprised? I never know what a jury is going to do. I try not to second guess a jury. I don’t know.
During the grand jury’s one-day hearing Flick—who according to testimony was trained and certified to conduct a TVI—testified that he did not perform a TVI, but the night of the crash he said he did.
In addition the patrol’s TVI expert, Sgt. Cody Paro—who testified that a TVI is not “ramming…it’s a controlled maneuver”— told the grand jury that Flick had followed patrol procedure.
County Attorney: Did you review the video?
Sgt. Cody Paro: Yes, ma’am.
County Attorney: Would you say that the TVI itself was done correctly?
Sgt. Cody Paro: Yes, ma’am.
Sgt. Travis Wallace, a state trooper certified to reconstruct accidents, examined the aftermath and testified that Flick attempted two TVI’s, first on the left side when LaDeaux tried to “block Trooper Flick” and then on the right side where Flick “steers left to avoid becoming entangled with the vehicle in the crash.”
Two months earlier—three days after the crash and after Flick reviewed the video—during his voluntary debriefing with the patrol Flick said: “Looking back I would have said there’s been a collision and the vehicle spun.”
In front of the grand jury Flick had this to say:
County Attorney: You called out (on the video) that a TVI occurred, correct?
Trooper Flick: I absolutely did say that. Later I realized that I did not TVI them….He TVI’d himself.
Grand Juror 13 (the jurors’ names are confidential): So a TVI didn’t really happen?
Trooper Flick: Correct.
Grand Juror 13: What I don’t understand is how the previous witness—the State Patrol’s expert on TVI’s—can say this was a textbook TVI if it wasn’t really a TVI?
Trooper Flick: I guess he’s just watching the video. I mean I don’t know.
Flick was also questioned about the speeds involved.
On the video Flick says that when the crash occurred he was going 50 miles an hour. That number changed during his grand jury testimony.
County Attorney: It was reported to dispatch that the TVI occurred at 50 miles an hour.
Trooper Flick: Yes.
County Attorney: I believe from the reconstruction the speeds were actually higher than that. Around 60, 66?
Trooper Flick: Yes. The difference is that last time I looked at my speedometer as I’m trying to get in position was 50 miles per hour.
Later that day one of the jurors added this:
Grand Juror 10: I was wondering back to the video when Flick said he was doing only 50 the first go-around and all of sudden the car accelerated to 66 miles an hour. That time frame doesn’t quite jive.
Flick also testified that he’d only seen two people in the car, the driver and someone sitting shotgun. But there were four. LaDeaux, his brother 30-year-old Carmen LaDeaux, and two women—their cousin Alicia Munoz and 25-year-old Alana Rosales.
Flick told the grand jury that he didn’t call off the chase because he “didn’t want the driver hurting anyone else on the road.” He also testified that had he known there were four people in the car he would “probably not” have attempted a TVI.
The night of the crash Carmen LaDeaux screams at Flick, “Why did you ram us”? Flick responded, “I did not ram you.”
LaDeaux, who admits all four had been drinking vodka and rum that night, took his complaint to the grand jurors telling them, “It was bull s–t for what (Trooper Flick) did. He killed a good man.”
According to court records, Antoine LaDeaux was in and out of trouble with police for the past 17 years, with felony convictions in 2003 and 2004 for criminal mischief, assault and assaulting an officer. In 2014, twice in one month, he was arrested and convicted of littering. In 2015 he was convicted of drunk driving, a 1st offense misdemeanor.
Contacted by News Channel Nebraska, a spokesman for the state patrol defended the trooper’s handling of the deadly chase.
“Internal reviews and a grand jury agreed that the use of a TVI was justified in this case,” says spokesman Cody Thomas. “NSP has not changed its TVI policy.”
It’s not clear if any members of the patrol were reprimanded for their actions in the case. A public records request by News Channel Nebraska has been denied. According to a letter from the patrol, “In this particular case the SLEBC (State Law Enforcement Bargaining Council) contract requires that the Internal Affairs matters are confidential.”
News Channel Nebraska has tried to contact Flick but the patrol’s spokesman says Trooper Flick will not be available for comment.