Although Virginia Bartell was killed in a 2016 Rock Hill crash with a drug dealer, her widower has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rock Hill police and others for the pursuit that led to the crash.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court, alleges police were in a “high speed chase” to catch Stevie McClinton when his car smashed into a vehicle that Virginia Bartell, 72 was in. The suit claims police created an “unreasonable risk” to others and cost Bartell her life.
The lawsuit names as defendants: York County, the city of Rock Hill, the Rock Hill Police Department, former Mayor Doug Echols, police chief Chris Watts and the two officers involved, Benjamin Glynn and Luke Boling.
York County and Rock Hill officials said Wednesday that they have not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment. Echols also declined comment.
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In 2016, after the incident, Rock Hill police issued a written statement that said officers had “turned off their blue lights and siren” after McClinton fled.
McClinton ran the red light and caused the crash, police said in 2016.
Police said there was no chase at the time of the Sept. 7, 2016 crash that killed Bartell. That crash happened at the intersection of Heckle Boulevard and Crawford Road.
McClinton was sentenced to 28 years in prison last November, after pleading guilty to hit and run resulting in death, trafficking crack cocaine and eight other felonies. But McClinton is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Jerry Wigger of Charleston, the lawyer for the deceased woman’s widower, William Bartell, said in a telephone interview with The Herald Wednesday that there are supposed to be guidelines for police pursuits, and claimed they were not followed.
The lawsuit accuses the Rock Hill Police Department and defendants of negligence in training for pursuits, and blames the department and officers for Bartell’s death.
A pursuit “shouldn’t jeopardize someone’s life over a minor criminal incident,” Wigger said. “A lot of police pursuit situations lead to people getting injured or killed. We hope to prevent those situations in the future.”
William Bartell could not be reached for comment.
Here is what the 2016 release from the Rock Hill Police Department said:
“Investigators were trying to stop 23 year old Stevie McClinton around 4:15 P.M. on Robinson Street when he sped off. McClinton was wanted by S.C. Probation and Parole, and the investigators had information that he was possibly selling drugs and firearms out of his vehicle. He was also to be considered armed and dangerous. When investigators identified him driving his 1973 Buick Century, they attempted to perform a traffic stop on Robinson Street by activating their blue lights and then their siren. McClinton accelerated down Robinson Street with the attempt to evade, and ran the stop sign at Robinson and Crawford Roads, turning right toward Heckle Blvd. At that time officers turned off their blue lights and siren. They then turned right onto Crawford Rd. and were driving toward Heckle when they observed the Buick disregard the red traffic signal at Heckle Blvd. and collided with a 2013 Toyota Prius and pushed the Prius into a 1983 Chevrolet Pick Up Truck. The officers then reactivated their blue lights and siren to get to the intersection and render aid to the victims of the collision and attempt to apprehend Stevie McClinton. As the officers arrived on scene they saw McClinton exit his vehicle and flee on foot.”
The lawsuit does not ask for a dollar amount.