LAKE WORTH, Texas — A Lake Worth officer faces a lawsuit after the police department said he hit a man with his patrol SUV at 45 mph while pursuing him in November 2020.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth on Monday, called officer Jonathan Granado's dashcam footage "shocking" and accused Granado of intentionally hitting the plaintiff, Dustin Bates.
Bates survived but suffered a fractured spine, ribs, and leg, according to the lawsuit.
On March 4, 2021, a Tarrant County grand jury, ultimately, chose not to indict the officer on any criminal charges.
Lake Worth Police Chief J.T. Manoushagian spoke at a news conference Monday afternoon to address the incident.
The incident happened on Nov. 23, 2020, on Lake Worth Boulevard, where Bates, on his motorcycle in the eastbound lanes, came to a stop at a red light at Boat Club Road.
Manoushagian said Granado pulled behind Bates in his patrol SUV, but Granado said that he could not see Bates' license plate. The lawsuit alleged Granado then gave the license plate number to dispatch.
Manoushagian said Granado attempted a traffic stop but Bates sped off, leading to a pursuit. The chase continued to eastbound Loop 820, and then Bates exited at Marine Creek Parkway.
When Bates left the freeway, he drove into a grass median on the off ramp and lost control of his motorcycle, Manoushagian said.
Bates slid off the motorcycle and into a grassy area. He then ran into a grass field across from the exit ramp "in an effort to get out of [Granado's] way as he saw [Granado] approaching at a high rate of speed," the lawsuit said.
Dashcam footage included in the lawsuit showed Bates running across the freeway exit ramp, toward the field.
As Bates ran across the road, Manoushagian said Granado veered off the roadway as he tracked Bates with his eyes. The chief said the officer applied his brakes while on a grassy area but that the SUV began to "slide" due to moisture on the grass.
"The officer continued to apply the brakes and continued sliding until he collided with Mr. Bates," Manoushagian said during the news conference.
The dashcam footage also showed Granado's SUV turning off the roadway, with Bates running in the grass.
The lawsuit alleged that Granado "had now driven his SUV directly toward Mr. Bates so that Mr. Bates was centered in front of the [Granado's] SUV."
Warning: Dash camera video contains graphic imagery.
Manoushagian said after the incident that the Grand Prairie Police Department was called to conduct an "unbiased" investigation. Grand Prairie police investigated for any possible criminal charges, according to Manoushagian.
Manoushagian said he did not consider the fact that Granado used to work as a corrections officer for Grand Prairie PD as a conflict of interest.
The Lake Worth Police Department also conducted an internal investigation, according to Manoushagian.
Manoushagian said investigators determined that Granado was driving about 45 mph when he hit Bates. Prior to the collision, Manoushagian said the officer was driving at about 95 mph when he took the exit ramp and started braking to around 84 mph and then about 74 mph before he went off the roadway. A combination of the brakes and grassy area had initially slowed him to 51 mph, according to Manoushagian.
When asked about his reaction to seeing the video footage, Manoushagian said, "My heart sank. What I saw in the video is not in keeping with the actions we expect our officers to take... in this case we caused injury to someone, and it was due to the officer's poor judgment."
But, the lawsuit alleged Granado's SUV "was not sliding through the grass out of control, but instead, drove in a clear curve directly into Mr. Bates under [Granado's] control the entire time," citing photos of Granado's tire tracks.
The lawsuit claimed that on the dashcam footage, Granado's brakes could be heard only after he struck Bates.
"It is clear from the video and tire tracks in the grass that Defendant Granado intentionally ran over Mr. Bates with his department-issued SUV as Mr. Bates fled on foot," the lawsuit said.
Manoushagian said Grand Prairie investigators determined the officer's vehicle "indicated the presence of a yaw mark, which is where the tires lose traction... immediately prior to the officer striking the suspect who was running away."
The case was eventually handed to a Tarrant County grand jury, which decided to not pursue criminal charges.
Manoushagian said the internal investigation found Granado violated police conduct policies. The officer was issued a two-week suspension.
Manoushagian said Granado resigned from the department on Dec. 1, 2021, and that it was the officer's own decision.
The lawsuit also detailed a conversation that Bates had with another officer, James O'Bannon, after the crash. When Bates told O'Bannon that Granado hit him with his car, O'Bannon replied, "Probably shouldn't have run," the lawsuit said.
"A lot of people think we can’t chase motorcycles," O'Bannon allegedly told Bates, according to the lawsuit. "That’s wrong. We can, and we will. Welcome to Lake Worth.”
O'Bannon reiterated, according to the lawsuit: “I’m not going to sugar coat it for you, you run from us, this is what happens."
Manoushagian addressed the comments made by O'Bannon. "That quote does not reflect the attitudes and principles of our department," the chief said, adding that the department had talked to O'Bannon about the comments.
The lawsuit said that O'Bannon's comments to Bates were captured on a Sansom Park officer's bodycam footage.
Bates suffered a fracture in his spine, three fractures of his ribs, and two fractures in his right leg, according to the lawsuit. Bates underwent surgery "and has permanent scarring" as a result of the incident, the lawsuit said.
Manoushagian said Grand Prairie PD's investigation indicated that Bates could have suffered the leg injury when he crashed the motorcycle.
The lawsuit argued that Granado's actions were not warranted and that Granado did not have a weapon and was not reaching for his waistband or anywhere a weapon might have been.
"We handled this case according to best practice and took steps that are well beyond what other departments take in similar situations," Manoushagian said. "For example, we could have investigated this incident all on our own, which certainly, in my opinion, would have implied more bias."
Bates' attorneys told WFAA they will allow a jury to decide what amount of punitive damages should be awarded to their client provided the case is a win for them in civil court.
The attorneys also said they are concerned that Granado will land a job at another police department in North Texas.
"Police chiefs around this state or in the country, when you are hiring police officers, make sure you do your diligence and do a comprehensive background check to make sure you are not hiring a bad apple," said attorney Scott Palmer.