JACKSON — An Ocean County police department and one of its officers contributed to serious injuries a motorist sustained that ultimately lead to their death in 2018, according to a lawsuit filed against the officer and department.

On July 5, 2018, at 10:20 pm, officers from the Jackson Township Police Department responded to the area of South New Prospect Road and Oak Drive for a report of a motor vehicle accident involving a motorcycle resulting in a fatality, according to the suit filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey.

Anthony Griffin, 22, of Jackson, was driving his 2004 Yamaha 999 Model Motorcycle southbound on South New Prospect Road. Griffin failed to stop at a red light signal at the intersection of South Prospect Road and Brewers Bridge Road, the suit said. Jackson officer Cherrick Daniels observed Griffin and then attempted to elude him, "I continued on South New Prospect Road and accelerated towards the motorcycle to close the gap separating our two vehicles," Daniels wrote in an incident report.

Daniels closed the distance between the two vehicles, "I activated my overhead emergency lights in an attempt to stop the vehicle on the straight portion of the roadway near the Prospect Point apartment complex," he added in his incident report.

When Griffin noticed Daniels' emergency lights, he turned and looked at him and proceeded to accelerate away at a high rate of speed towards West County Line Road.

Daniels continued to follow Griffin on South Prospect Road towards West County Line Road, "I observed it [Griffin] collide with the driver side of the door of a silver vehicle which was making a left turn on South Prospect Road from Oak Drive," he specified in his incident report.

The "silver vehicle" that was mentioned by Daniels in his incident report was Eric Larson, 24, of Jackson, driving a 2008 Hyundai Elantra.

The force of the impact forced both vehicles to come to an uncontrolled final rest, an investigation report says.

Griffin was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident at 10:50 pm. Larson was transported to the Jersey Shore University Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition due to internal injuries sustained in the crash.

Incident Footage from Daniels' Patrol Car: 

Twenty-two days later, on July 27th, 2018, Larson died from his injuries and was pronounced dead at 3:47 pm, hospital records outlined in the conclusion report said.

An investigation report obtained by Townsquare Media News indicates that the Jackson Township Police Department was removed from the remainder investigation due to the circumstances of the incident.

Due to the holiday, no other officers were available to respond so an officer, "marked out the scene with spray paint for purposes of preserving the crash scene until the scene could be diagnosed at a later date," the report says.

Several days later, Lakewood Police Traffic Safety Officer and FAST member David Silberstein responded to the crash to take laser measurements.

Crash Diagram 1 of 2 (Jackson Police via OPRAMachine)

According to an investigation report by the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, Anthony Griffin was found to be at fault for the collision due to his attempt to elude police by exceeding the posted speed limit and operating his motorcycle recklessly, "causing a collision with a Hyundai Elantra, resulting in the death of Eric Larson and himself."

The report goes on to conclude that if Griffin had been traveling at the posted speed limit, the vehicle [Larson] making a left turn would have had a reasonable amount of time to make the turn safely and clear oncoming traffic.

A civil lawsuit has been filed by Lommurro, Munson, Comer, Brown & Schottland, LLC on behalf of Larson's mother, Dana Fiore in the Superior Court of New Jersey alleging that Jackson Township, Officer Daniels, "John Does 1-10" and "ABC Corporations 1-10" contributed to the death of Larson.

Crash Diagram 2 of 2 (Jackson Police via OPRAMachine)

The lawsuit alleges that Daniels violated, "police standards for the pursuit of a driver," and that he was aware that he used his discretion to operate his vehicle in excess of 65 miles per hour on a road with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that Daniels, "whether intentionally, negligently, carelessly, or recklessly, did not respond to the suspected speeding vehicle [Griffin] in an appropriate manner," and went on cite Daniels' excess of speed, there being residences and businesses along the road, it being dark, and asserts that he violated police standards for pursuit of a driver.

The lawsuit also suggests that Daniels violated the Attorney General's vehicle pursuit guidelines and operating procedures put implemented by the Jackson Township Police Department.

The Attorney General's Office has not updated it's Vehicular Pursuit Policy since 2009, according to the state's website.

According to the Vehicular Pursuit Policy that is in place statewide section 1, subsection B, titled "Deciding To Pursue" there are four factors that an officer must take into consideration when deciding to pursue a suspect:

  1. Likelihood of successful apprehension.
  2. Whether the identity of the violator is known to the point where later apprehension is possible.
  3. Degree of risk created by pursuit
    1. Volume, type, speed and direction of vehicular traffic
    2. Nature of the area: residential, commercial, school zone, open highway, etc.
    3. Population density and volume of pedestrian traffic
    4. Environmental factors such as weather and darkness
    5. Road conditions: construction, poor repair, extreme curves, intersections controlled by traffic signals or signs, ice, etc.
  4. Police Officer characteristics
    1. Driving skills
    2. Familiarity with roads
    3. Condition of police vehicle

The policy goes on to mention in section 3, subsection E, titled "Vehicular Pursuit Restrictions":

  • "To diminish the likelihood of a pursuit, a police officer intending to stop a vehicle for any violation of the law shall, when possible and without creating a threat to public safety, close the distance between the two vehicles prior to activating emergency lights and an audible device. Police officers shall recognize that while attempting to close the distance and prior to the initiation of a pursuit and the activation of emergency lights and an audible device, they are subject to all motor vehicle laws governing the right of way."

In the fifth count of the lawsuit, fictitious names are used to describe the defendants, "John Does 1-10, and/or ABC Corporations 1-10, jointly and/or severally whether intentionally, negligently, carelessly, or recklessly failed to properly hire, train, supervise, or otherwise monitor the police officers of the defendant, Jackson Township, for the duties the police officers, including defendant Officer Cherrick Daniels, could foreseeably be expected to perform."

In the eighth count of the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that Jackson Township and the fictitious names used in the prior count allowed a dangerous custom and practice to form among Jackson Township police officers when responded to suspected speeding vehicles and vehicle response in general.

The plaintiff, Dana Fiore, who is the mother of Eric Larson, is suing the defendants for compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys fees, cost of the suit, interest, and other relief that the court may award.

OPRAMachine contributed to this report.

Mark Anthony is a reporter for Townsquare Media: Mark.Kowalski@townsquaremedia.com 

The public is reminded that defendants listed in this lawsuit are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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