THP: Trooper saw fatal crash but "chose to ignore it"

12:18 AM, Feb 2, 2012   |    comments
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A Tennessee State Trooper will likely be fired for his actions the night of a high-speed pursuit that left a young man dead.

On Tuesday, the parents of Kyle Anito, 20, filed a lawsuit against Trooper Charles Van Morgan.  Anito died in a car crash on November 26, after failing to stop when Van Morgan tried to pull him over for speeding.  The video from Van Morgan's cruiser camera shows that he briefly lost sight of Anito's car, then passes it after the wreck.  Van Morgan did not stop, but did slow down.  He pulled over just down the road, and did not respond to the wreck until it was dispatched. 

In the suit, the parents allege that Trooper Van Morgan saw the wreck, but refused to stop and help.

Now, 10News has learned that Van Morgan's supervisors at THP agree with them. 

In a letter recommending his termination, Colonel T.G. Trott, the commander of the THP, says there is no problem with Van Morgan's pursuit of Anito.  It's his actions afterwards that are in question.

A THP sergeant who viewed the video the night of the crash first raised concerns.   His superiors, including Col. Trott, also watched the video, then turned it over to District Attorney General Randy Nichols, who determined "no criminal statutes applied but that Trooper Morgan's actions or lack thereof were 'egregious.'"

In the letter, Trott says that Trooper Van Morgan claimed that he only saw a car out of the corner of his eye and dismissed it as a parked car.  Trott discounts this claim, because of the condition of the car, which had smoke rising 20-25 feet in the air.  He also points out that Van Morgan slowed from 51 mph to 21 mph just past the crash.

Trott also points out that Trooper Van Morgan attempted to call an attorney from the Police Benevolent Association within minutes of returning to the crash scene.

Trott also went to the scene in a similar vehicle and drove it at night at the same speed.  He determined that Trooper Van Morgan "did indeed see the crash scene and chose to ignore it."

Trott says in the letter that he cannot guess the reasons for Van Morgan's actions, but mentions that he was involved in another pursuit that ended in a death a few years before.  He again emphasizes that he finds no fault with Van Morgan's pursuit.  It was the fact that he passed a crashed and burning vehicle without stopping and rendering aid.

The letter says that the preliminary autopsy shows that Anito died on impact, but that Morgan could not know that at the time.

The letter says Van Morgan was placed on administrative duty on January 13, and that he made "several alarming comments" at that time.  He stated "I got out and got my fire extinguisher just to make it look good.  I knew he was dead but you, you got to do that for the media and everyone else. I was just trying to put on a show..." 

Trott says that type of comment "is not a positive representation of the Tennessee Highway Patrol."

In the letter, Trott says that while Van Morgan has excelled in many duties, that as a result of the incident, Van Morgan "has lost his credibility with the THP leadership and supervisors.  Therefore, I have no choice but to recommend his termination from the THP for Neglect of Duty and Conduct Unbecoming a State Trooper."

THP says Trooper Van Morgan is currently on discretionary leave with pay, while the legal process that will likely end with his termination plays out.

Trooper Van Morgan will have a hearing about his status at THP on February 9.

At the request of 10News, the state also released Trooper Van Morgan's disciplinary history.  The dates are when the investigations received notice of each incident, not the date the incident happened.  Disciplinary actions taken by the state are in parenthesis.

  • July 2, 2004 - Shooting Incident (2-Day Suspension w/o Pay)
  • December 18, 2008 - Violation of General Orders (No Action Taken)
  • May 12, 2009 - Unbecoming Conduct (No Action Taken)
  • June 3, 2009 - Unprofessional Conduct (No Action Taken)
  • June 19, 2009 - Violation of General Orders (No Action Taken)
  • August 5, 2009 - Violation of General Orders (No Action Taken)
  • January 26, 2010 - Improper Procedures (Oral Warning)
  • February 5, 2010 - Violation of General Orders (No Action Taken)
  • March 23, 2010 - Violation of General Orders (No Action Taken)
  • July 29, 2010 - Violation of General Orders (No Action Taken)
  • January 11, 2011 - Violation of General Orders (No Action Taken)
  • May 3, 2011 - Unprofessional Conduct (No Action Taken)
  • November 30, 2011 - Neglect of Duty (Pending)
  • January 6, 2012 - Violation of General Orders (Pending)

 

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