The City of Carbondale has agreed to pay $105,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed she was injured when a police officer rammed an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on which she was riding.


The City of Carbondale has agreed to pay $105,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a woman who claimed she was injured when a police officer rammed an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on which she was riding.
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident which occurred in May 2009, when Chelsea Rocuba, then 17, was riding on the back of an ATV being driven by Gregory Perri along Hospital Street.
Officer Timothy Mackrell related that the quad was being driven on a public street, in violation of a city ordinance, so he initiated a pursuit.  According to his report, the crash occurred when Perri didn’t stop properly at a posted sign on Fallbrook St. and Officer Mackrell said he didn’t have enough time to avoid colliding with the ATV.  Perri was arrested in the incident.
The lawsuit alleged that Officer Mackrell wanted to purposely “inflict punishment” on Perri and Rocuba for riding on a city street without helmets, so he “unlawfully rammed” the vehicle to do just that.
Donald Sherman, administrator for Boyle, Autry and Murphy, the firm that represented Rocuba, issued a statement to the NEWS in which he said the ATV in question was “legally registered and operated.”  He accused Officer Mackrell of willfully using a “pit maneuver,” which he said is “commonly used by police forces” and “involves the law enforcement vehicle steering sharply into the target vehicle, causing it to reverse direction, spin out, or leave the roadway.”
In this particular case, he said, it caused Perri to lose control of the ATV, resulting in Rocuba being thrown from the vehicle to the pavement.
“As a result of Officer Mackrell’s actions, Ms. Rocuba suffered back and neck injuries,” he recounted, adding that such “pit maneuvers” are common practice for Carbondale officers.  “The ramming of the ATV, causing Ms. Rocuba’s injuries, was the latest in a series of accidents involving Carbondale Police Cruisers and ATVs.”
Dennis Boyle, attorney for Ms. Rocuba, said of the settlement:  “We hope that this will send a message that the practice of using police vehicles to unlawfully ram citizens will not be tolerated by the public.”
Mayor Justin Taylor told the NEWS that, although the city disputes the allegations contained in the lawsuit, it agreed to settle the case rather than pay the legal costs involved in going to trial.
“There are two sides to every story,” he noted, “and we certainly don’t believe that our officer did anything malicious in this case.”
“This is covered by our insurance policy,” he added.  “Quite simply, the city’s insurance carrier advised that we settle the case and we accepted their recommendation.”
The lawsuit claimed that Officer Mackrell was suspended for 10 days over this incident, but that never occurred.  City and police officials did not take any disciplinary action whatsoever against Officer Mackrell because they did not feel that his handling of the incident warranted such action.