A Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputy driving a patrol car hit and injured a bicyclist at a downtown Beaufort intersection, a lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges.
In the court papers, attorneys for Teresa Garcia say she was riding her bicycle east on Duke Street and stopped at a stop sign at the intersection of Bladen Street in June 2016. Kathrina Polite-Gamble was driving a Sheriff's Office patrol car north on Bladen Street when she turned left and collided with Garcia, the lawsuit says.
Garcia and her husband, Arthur, are suing Beaufort County, the Sheriff's Office and Polite-Gamble.
The court documents allege Polite-Gamble was reckless and negligent in not properly using a turn signal, failing to yield right of way, not maintaining the proper lane and approaching the turn too fast. The deputy and Sheriff's Office also failed to ensure a proper investigation by the S.C. Highway Patrol or another law enforcement agency to determine whether the officer acted properly and find potential witnesses, Garcia's attorneys wrote.
Sheriff's Office Lt. Col. Bill Neil declined to comment on the allegations Thursday, saying the agency had not yet been served the lawsuit and wasn't familiar with what was alleged.
Department policy related to collisions involving a patrol car would be for the officer to go through the chain of command and the on-duty supervisor be notified, Neil said. An internal accident review is conducted separate from the report from the agency investigating the collision.
The Highway Patrol would typically handle such cases, Neil said. The Beaufort Police Department was asked to work the June 2016 collision to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest because Polite-Gamble was married to a highway patrolman, he said.
Information on the collision wasn't immediately available from Beaufort police Thursday.
Polite-Gamble retired from the Sheriff's Office last year.
Because of the collision, Teresa Garcia suffered "serious and permanent injuries to her whole body," suffers from chronic pain and required therapy and exercise programs, the court documents allege.
The Garcias are asking for damages "in an appropriate amount" and court costs and are requesting a jury trial.
Those named in the suit have 30 days to file a response. Beaufort County civil cases require mediation before a potential jury trial.