Cop Refuses to Apologize to Family of Teen Boy He Ran Over and Killed

Cameron Langford | Courthouse News Service

A Houston policeman refused to apologize to the family of a man he ran over and killed after a civil jury cleared him of liability Wednesday night.

The federal jury also declined to hold the city liable for not training the officer how to chase suspects on dirt roads.

Jason Trevino, 19, and his friend Bernard Seetaram stole a boat and trailer from a yard in their northeast Houston neighborhood in the early morning of July 27, 2011, to take it fishing on a bayou, according to testimony in the four-day trial.

Houston police spotted the men towing the boat and trailer behind an all-terrain vehicle. Neither the ATV nor the trailer’s lights were on, Officer Ricky Raska testified Tuesday.

Raska said he tried to arrest the men, but they discarded the boat and turned onto a dirt trail too narrow for his cruiser.

Two hours later, around 3 a.m., Officer Jordan Greenhaw spotted the ATV on a street and turned on his squad car’s flashing lights.

Trevino turned onto a dirt power-line easement that cut through thick woods. The chase ended with Seetaram falling off the back of the ATV and Greenhaw running over Trevino, who was found with his legs sticking out from under the squad car’s front end and his shredded T-shirt wrapped around a tire.

An ambulance took Trevino to an emergency room, where he died from blood loss from his lung.

His parents, Lloyd Trevino and Catherine Cortez, sued Greenhaw and Houston in January 2013.

During a break in the trial Wednesday, Jason Trevino’s cousin Lee Ludtke said: “There might be no case if Greenhaw had been wearing a bodycam or he had a dashcam in his car.”

A Houston police spokesman told Courthouse News the department has 150 to 180 squad cars with dashcams, which are used by officers in its traffic enforcement and DUI investigation units.

Only 100 of the department’s more than 5,000 police officers wear bodycams, under a pilot program started in December 2013. But beginning this month with a batch of 250, the department will start equipping officers with permanent bodycams.

“Over the next 12 to 18 months we’re going to have 4,000 [bodycams] out there,” the spokesman said in an interview.

With no footage from the accident, the seven-person jury had to sift through conflicting testimony.

Greenhaw testified that Trevino swerved left, overcorrected and tipped his ATV into the path of his cruiser.

Seetaram testified that Greenhaw bumped the back of the ATV twice and caused the wreck.

City attorneys denied that, saying Greenhaw knew department policy prohibits officers from bumping vehicles.

Lloyd Trevino, a master Caterpillar tractor mechanic, fought off tears Monday as he testified that Jason was a chip off the block, who could fix anything with an engine and developed his skills wrenching on ATVs and motorcycles in their home workshop.

Jason’s aunt Carol Ludtke, a 60-year-old retired elementary schoolteacher, smiled during a break in the trial Wednesday as she remembered his growth from a little boy who loved musicals to a rambunctious, selfless teenager.

“I told an old lady who lived down the street from Jason that he died and she asked, ‘Now who’s going to fix my lawnmower?'” Carol Ludtke said. “If I bought something from IKEA he could put it together after looking at the instructions one time.”

Lloyd Trevino testified that Jason also had a knack for racing open-wheel go-karts, finishing second or better in six races, and dreamed of becoming a NASCAR driver.

Trevino’s attorney Grace Weatherly weaved that NASCAR aspiration into her closing arguments Wednesday, asking the jury to consider what might have been.

“Jason dreamed of becoming a NASCAR driver. The winner of the race last year at Texas Motor Speedway won $1.5 million,” said Weatherly, her confident bearing softened by her Texas twang.

She urged the jurors to discard their emotions.

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“You should not let bias or sympathy play a part in your actions,” she said. “Lloyd Trevino has had a bellyful. He’s had four and a half years of sympathy. Look at the facts. You’re not here to put a value on a lost life. You’re asked to value the loss of love and the destruction of a relationship. This is your time to tell the city of Houston what’s needed for the training of their employees.”

Houston’s attorney Henry Carnaby placed all the blame on Jason Trevino.

“The death resulted from failure to stop, not the decision to pursue, and certainly not the failure to train by the city of Houston,” he said in his closing argument.

The jury deliberated for four hours.

Carol Ludtke walked over to the defense table as Greenhaw shook his attorneys’ hands, leaned over the railing and talked to the officer, who got wide-eyed, shook his head and walked out of the courtroom.

A stunned Ludtke told Courthouse News she’d asked Greenhaw to apologize for her nephew’s death and he refused.

After the verdict, Trevino’s mother’s attorney, Randall Kallinen, said the jury probably had been prejudiced by the fact that Seetaram pleaded guilty to felony theft for the boat heist and an autopsy found trace amounts of cocaine in Trevino.

Kallinen said he was not surprised by Greenhaw’s reluctance to apologize.

“He was sued,” Kallinen said.

Carnaby declined comment on the verdict, citing city policy.

Published by Courthouse News Service.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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