A Kenner woman who was badly injured during a high-speed police chase in April is suing the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, one of whose deputies inadvertently crashed a pickup into a sport-utility vehicle, throwing the woman to the roadway.
Dominique Nicole Whitaker, the woman ejected from the SUV during the April 28 collision in Metairie, suffered severe “injuries to her skull and face, a broken wrist, a lacerated spleen, multiple fractured vertebrae, multiple cuts, abrasions, contusions and a traumatic brain injury,” according to her lawsuit, which was filed in 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish on Monday.
Whitaker subsequently underwent multiple surgeries, spent time in Interim LSU Hospital’s intensive-care unit in New Orleans and now needs a walker to move around, she claims in her suit, which seeks damages from the Sheriff’s Office and its insurer, American Alternative Insurance Co.
She has made return trips to the hospital because of severe body and head pain and may be forced to have more surgeries, the suit says.
St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Whitaker, 36, was hurt as Tregre’s deputies chased domestic violence and kidnapping suspect Cory Joseph Hebert from LaPlace through St. Charles Parish to the Kenner-Metairie line.
Hebert had been in a physical altercation with a woman, eventually putting a knife to her throat, authorities said. They said he forced her into a car and drove her to a desolate spot off Old U.S. 51 before ultimately dropping her off at the St. John jail.
Hebert then dialed 911 and told the operator that he did “not recommend” deputies try to arrest him unless they were “heavily armed,” Tregre has said. That prompted deputies to chase Hebert to the intersection of Veterans Memorial Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue.
There, a Chevrolet Suburban being driven by Whitaker’s cousin, Seren Whitaker, 29, began turning left onto the eastbound lanes of Veterans under the protection of a green traffic arrow. That’s when an unmarked Ford F-150 pickup, driven by St. John Deputy James G. Bessinger Jr., plowed into the passenger side of the Suburban so hard that the SUV became airborne and spun completely around before coming to rest on Veterans.
The impact tossed Dominique Whitaker from the Suburban and knocked her unconscious before she was taken to the hospital, her lawsuit says.
Two of the three deputies in Bessinger’s truck — whose lights and sirens were on — also went to the hospital to receive treatment for minor injuries, Tregre has said.
Before he was captured, Hebert was chased to a truck stop in Harahan by members of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies. He remains jailed in the Jefferson Parish Correction Center in Gretna on various counts.
Whitaker’s lead attorney, Paul Sterbcow, said his client has no memory about what happened in the moments before or after the crash, including whether she was buckled in.
“The last thing she recalls is leaving ... the Krispy Kreme doughnut store (on Clearview Parkway), and they were driving ... on Veterans,” Sterbcow said.
He said Seren Whitaker recalled his cousin was wearing her seatbelt.
The lawsuit was assigned to Judge John Molaison Jr.