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Family sues cop, suspect's estate in chase crash that killed sisters

Posted May 21, 2008

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— The family of two Granville County girls killed in a December police chase has filed a lawsuit against the Franklinton police officer involved and the estate of the suspect he was chasing.

The complaint, filed last Wednesday by Clinton and Mary Ann Lunsford, claims gross negligence on the part of Officer Michael Dunlap, as well as Franklinton Police Lt. John Green, Chief Ray Gilliam and the town of Franklinton.

The Lunsfords' daughters, Linsay, 18, and Maggie, 9, died Dec. 1, after Guy Christopher Ayscue fled from Dunlap and crashed his car head-on into theirs, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said.

Investigators said Dunlap chased Ayscue at speeds reaching 90 mph in a 55 mph zone. The lawsuit states that he was reached speeds of up to 103 mph during the 15-mile chase from Franklinton to Creedmoor.

That violated Franklinton police policy that pursuits shouldn't exceed 20 mph above the posted speed limit. Dunlap was placed on administrative leave, but returned to patrol work in February.

Ayscue, 38, of Henderson, also died in the crash.

The lawsuit names his estate as a defendant, saying he was also responsible for the Lunsford sisters' deaths, having operated his vehicle "carelessly" and in "wanton disregard" of others on a highway without "due caution."

"Ayscue's negligence was a proximate cause of the deaths of Linsay and Maggie Lunsford," the lawsuit states.

"It was a tragedy that Ayscue was a danger to people on the road," Franklinton town attorney Mitch Styers said. "His actions were the cause of the loss of innocent life. Officer Dunlap was doing his job the best he could."

The Lunsfords' attorney, Gene Edmundson, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Dunlap was chasing Ayscue when he passed another vehicle in a no-passing zone on a hill and hit the car that Linsay Lunford was driving, investigators said.

She and her sister were going to their father's house after a shopping trip at Wal-Mart.

Linsay Lunsford was a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was studying to be a teacher.

Maggie Lunsford was a fourth-grader at Mount Energy Elementary School. She had won a trophy at a karate tournament earlier that day.

Franklinton changing policies

Since December, the Franklinton Police Department has been reviewing its standard operating procedures, including its pursuit policy.

A draft of the policy now includes a set of factors, such as weather and traffic conditions or unfamiliar surroundings, for officers to consider when deciding whether to stop a pursuit. Nowhere does it include the 20-mph policy cited in the Lunsfords' lawsuit.

Larry Carver, interim town manager, said that was eliminated.

"We wanted to create conditions for officers to use good judgment rather than be worried about an arbitrary number," he said.

125 Comments

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  • fbguru May 22, 2008

    would chase someone at 130 MPH makes me cringe...Me as well, "not-today". Not only are you putting every person that is anywhere nearby at risk, but I don't care how much "training" you have, NO ONE is trained well enough or skilled enough to handle a vehicle at that rate of speed in traffic and uncontrolled circumstances. An oval track and a nascar driver, maybe.

  • fbguru May 22, 2008

    I would think that most families would want to move on after such a tragedy...I would think that unless you have suffered through the loss of 2 children at one time, then you don't know what this family is going through and whether they will EVER be able to move on. Maybe this suit and at least a change in policy or an admission that SOMEONE made a bad judgement or could have done something differently to avoid the outcome will make this Mother feel better. Maybe feeling like they did something to prevent another family from going through the same thing will make them feel better. At any rate, it's definitely not for the money as some idiots on this post have tried to insinuate without personally knowing this family.

  • LaLa-Land May 22, 2008

    Just the thought that an officer would chase someone at 130 MPH makes me cringe. My teenage children are out there driving now. That's too fast!!! Period!!

  • PurpleJack May 22, 2008

    I'm willing to bet that an attorney talked them into the suit, citing that the cop and the suspect's family should be held responsible in some way. I would think that most families would want to move on after such a tragedy.

  • Tripwire May 22, 2008

    They knew who it was after the fact. Just because the car is registered to Mr Ayscue doesn't mean that he's the one drivng it. At the time all they knew was it was a car registered to a Mr Ayscue. Unless they new the man personally they would have no way of knowing if the person driving was the same person whom the car was registered to.

  • TheAdmiral May 22, 2008

    "Larry Carver, interim town manager, said that was eliminated.

    "We wanted to create conditions for officers to use good judgment rather than be worried about an arbitrary number," he said."

    What a crok - they removed it because they got caught with an officer violating their rule. So to protect their nads they removed it. No other reason.

  • fbguru May 22, 2008

    Given the inexperience of the driver, his panic and the fact that he's drunk or possibly worse...Even more reason that he shouldn't have been chased up to 90 mph. And 130 mph is just ridiculous.

  • fbguru May 22, 2008

    The tag number doesn't tell you who the driver of the car is...In reading the paper about this case, they knew WHO it was, the car was registered to Mr. Ayscue.

  • leo-nc May 22, 2008

    "...He could have calling his supervisor so that they could call ahead and have other law enforcement watch out for this guy and since he had his plate#, have him picked up eventually..."

    He DID call on the radio as is required of every officer invloved in a chase. Just because you have a tag number doesn't mean anything. A good 50% of the time, the vehicle is stolen so having that alone gets you nothing. Chasing at 90mph isn't a big deal in and of itself. I've chased at 130mph more than once, so 90 isn't much, even on a two lane road. Given the inexperience of the driver, his panic and the fact that he's drunk or possibly worse, there aren't a lot of supervisors out there who would make him call off the chase. As for stop sticks, there was an officer ahead of them who had them ready to go. Unfortunately, they never made it that far. Don't think he's just driving and not doing anything else. The officer was doing what he was supposed to do.

  • Tripwire May 22, 2008

    The tag number doesn't tell you who the driver of the car is. Only the registered owner of the tag. The tag could be stolen or the car may belong to someone other than the driver. I know of several cases where the driver got away, Dumped the car and then went home and called police to report that his car had been stolen. Since no one actually could identify the driver. it could not be proven that it wasn't.

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