Couple sues Gonzales Police Department over high-speed chase

A Gonzales couple has filed a lawsuit seeking damages resulting from a Dec. 18 high-speed police chase that left two people dead in Iberville Parish.

Warren Porta III and his wife brought the lawsuit in the 18th Judicial District Court on Wednesday against the city of Gonzales and Police Officer Brent Amy over injuries Porta received at the conclusion of Amy’s pursuit of a man and woman suspected of shoplifting at Tanger Outlet Center in Gonzales.

Amy chased suspects Kevdrinka T. Williams, 25, of Baton Rouge, and Tremaine R. Wickem, 20, of New Orleans, at high speeds on La. 30 until the fleeing vehicle attempted to pass several other vehicles on the shoulder of the highway near La. 74 in St. Gabriel, went out of control and collided with Porta’s truck.

Before the chase began, Amy had detained and questioned Williams and Wickem at Tanger Mall on allegations of shoplifting at several stores, the suit says.

Attorneys Andre Gauthier and Lee Amedee, representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, accuse Amy and the Gonzales Police Department of negligence and disregard for the safety of others for initiating the chase.

There was no need for Amy to start chasing Williams and Wickem, who both died in the collision with Porta’s vehicle, since Amy already had identified them as shoplifting suspects before they fled, the lawsuit says.

Also, the suit says, the chase was unnecessary because shoplifting is a misdemeanor offense.

Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson declined Thursday to comment on the lawsuit, although he announced Jan. 23 a Police Department internal investigation uncovered no wrongdoing stemming from the police chase of the alleged shoplifters. Gonzales City Attorney Ryland Percy did not return calls Thursday seeking comment.

Amy, the lawsuit asserts, “knew that if he continued to chase the (suspects’ vehicle) through this area at very high speeds, the risk of danger and peril to the general public would increase, yet he continued to chase (them) at high speed.”

Porta’s attorneys also claim Amy “failed to properly activate his siren and therefore, traffic in the area had no notice that high speed vehicles were closing in.”

The suit says the Police Department should have intervened and called off the chase because during 2012, the department had engaged in “multiple high-speed police chases that resulted in the destruction of property and death of human life.”

The suit claims Porta has suffered from physical pain, disfigurement, mental anguish and a loss in wages because of the wreck. Porta’s wife, Nicole Porta, asks the court for compensation for the inconvenience she has suffered as well due to her husband’s injuries.

The Portas requested a jury trial of their lawsuit, according to court records.