Family sues Boynton, cop after boy killed by fleeing driver

BOYNTON BEACH —
The family of a 5-year-old boy who was killed when a man fleeing from a Boynton Beach police officer lost control of his car and struck him has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, car owner, city and officer the man allegedly fled from.

Jayden Readon was walking on the sidewalk with his grandparents and brother on Feb. 13, 2016 on Miner Road near Summit Road when he was hit by a car driven by felon Lex Eugene, who was fleeing Officer Mark Sohn, the lawsuit states. Eugene, who was released from prison two months before the crash, lost control of his car and drove on the curbed sidewalk before crashing into a chained-link fence. Jayden died at Delray Medical Center.

The lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court in January by Jayden’s parents Corye Readon Sr. and Marisella Readon, blames all parties listed for Jayden’s death, including Pamela Bond, who owned the car Eugene was driving.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday for Judge David French to decide whether to allow the Readons to amend their original complaint to include more details regarding liability following the city’s motion to dismiss it, according to court records.

The complaint accuses Sohn, a K-9 officer who has been with the department since 2002, of “negligently and/or intentionally” engaging in a concealed plain pursuit of Eugene. It asks for damages in excess of $15,000. The complaint says Sohn was familiar with Miner Road “and therefore he knew” a high-speed pursuit would be dangerous down the “narrow, two-lane road” in a residential area with a nearby school.

Boynton Beach Police declined to comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation.

Eugene’s arrest report says an officer saw him on Federal Highway driving a white Buick SUV with an expired registration decal. Eugene turned onto Miner Road and sped at an “extremely high rate of speed for a residential area.” The officer activated his emergency lights and siren and called in that he was going to do a traffic stop. But Eugene fled.

The report says Eugene continued to speed at about double the limit and traveled west in the eastbound lane to pass a vehicle. Another police car with emergency lights drove toward Eugene and he made a “very dangerous and improper right turn” onto Summit Road where he lost control and crashed.

In a statement after the incident, police spokeswoman Jaclyn Smith said there was no pursuit after Eugene sped off during the traffic stop.

Police found Eugene had 213 heroin pills, 17 Xanax pills and $2,120 in his possession, according to the report.

In the complaint, Jayden’s parents said if Sohn did a traffic stop on Federal and Eugene failed to pull over, Sohn would have had to disengage in the pursuit because of police policy. “And the chase would have ended on Federal Highway, a safe distance away from the impact point on Miner Road,” the lawsuit states.

After the crash, Eugene was arrested on several criminal charges including vehicular homicide, felony murder, aggravated fleeing and eluding and heroin trafficking, according to court records. He remains in the Palm Beach County Jail.

Sohn is a veteran officer who in October was named Officer of the Quarter. His work led to arrests of six felons and alleged drug traffickers and the seizure of substantial amounts of drugs and six guns, according to a police statement.

The complaint mentions other pursuits Sohn had been involved in. One is from 2012 when Sohn tried to pull over a driver on Interstate 95 because the car matched the description of one that had been involved in a crime. The driver fled and died after losing control of his car and crashing it.

In 2004, then-police chief Marshall Gage gave Sohn a letter of reprimand and five days suspension for a chase he was involved in with two other officers, also on I-95. The chief said the officers endangered other drivers by ignoring repeated orders to end the pursuit.

The Palm Beach Post requested all internal affairs files involving Sohn, but none are available. Boynton Police cited government retention rules that say they are not required to maintain files after a certain amount of time.

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