Accident report: Deputy ‘confused’ about location
Shortly after his police cruiser collided Dec. 29, 2004, with a car driven by a local volunteer firefighter, Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department deputy Robert L. Peterman told an investigator from the Kansas Highway Patrol that he was "confused about which road to turn on."
Jared Moore, a 19-year-old Fairmount Township firefighter, was thrown from his vehicle and died later that night from injuries sustained in the crash. Peterman is charged in Leavenworth County District Court with vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor.
The highway patrol's investigation of the accident hasn't been made public, but this newspaper has obtained a copy of the investigation report.
On Dec. 29, Moore and Peterman were driving north on 155th Street to the scene of an injury accident. Moore, in the lead car, had begun to turn left onto Donahoo Road when Peterman's police cruiser struck Moore's vehicle from behind.
Findings in the highway patrol report do not place direct blame on either Moore or Peterman. According to an opinion and conclusion section of the report, the "immediate cause of this collision can be attributed to Moore turning left in front of Peterman." However, the report continues, "Peterman's speed, while not the direct cause of the collision, is a contributing factor to the severity of the collision."
The report also reads:
"Although Moore was also responding to an emergency call, he was responding with his personal vehicle, which was not equipped with lights or a siren and was not an authorized emergency vehicle. Moore was required to obey all traffic laws. Although it is unknown if Moore recognized the approaching vehicle, it is conceivable that Moore may have assumed the emergency vehicle approaching was also going to turn west onto Donahoo Road, as it was the most direct route to the injury accident. However, Moore had a legal obligation to respond appropriately to the approach of an emergency vehicle."
A witness to the accident, Fairmount Township firefighter Gaylyn Gorup, posed a question to investigators -- why Peterman was driving at such high speeds to get to the accident when a fire unit was already on the scene. Highway Patrol investigators learned that patrol units are equipped with scanners than can monitor EMS and fire frequencies.
The ability to do so is dependent on the officer turning the scanner on. Peterman told investigators he did not turn his scanner on that evening. He also told investigators a camera inside his patrol car was also turned off because "it was messing up."
Peterman was attempting to pass Moore through the 155th Street and Donahoo intersection, according to the report. At the point of impact, Peterman was driving between 84 and 87 miles per hour; Moore's speed was estimated at 27 miles per hour, the report indicates.
Peterman told a highway patrol investigator, "I know the area pretty good. I guess that I got confused about which road to turn on. That is why I tried to pass this intersection and head for the next one."
During another interview with an investigating officer, Peterman reiterated that he was mistaken. The investigator asked the deputy if Peterman was "confused about where you were going?"
"Yes," he said, according to the report. "I thought the accident that I was headed to was a mile further north from Donahoo Road. That is why I tried to pass the vehicle. I didn't know where the other guy was headed."
Later, investigators asked Peterman if he was familiar with roads in the area and if he was comfortable driving at high speeds on them. Peterman replied "I still get confused on locations, but I feel comfortable driving at higher speeds on rural roads. I am used to driving on these types of roads."
He also told investigators that the collision was the first accident he'd been involved in during 10 years working as a deputy.
Gorup was also traveling north on 155th Street Dec. 29. Peterman's vehicle passed Gorup's en route to the accident. Gorup witnessed the Moore-Peterman collision and made a statement to a highway patrol investigator.
Gorup said Moore -- a probationary firefighter since Aug. 2004 -- had been on 18 emergency calls. Gorup told the investigator that Moore was familiar with the area.
"I think he knew it pretty good. Why is it that the deputy, having been on as long as he had, couldn't find Donahoo and Jared could? Was he lost?"
"I don't know why (Peterman) was in such a hurry, there was already an ambulance and fire truck on scene," Gorup told investigators. "The only thing that he could have done when he got there was set up flares." He continued, "How come he didn't slow down to let Jared turn? I think he was lost."
Gorup also recalled that, after emergency crews arrived at the accident scene, "I saw the deputy walk over to Chuck Magaha (Leavenworth County Emergency Management coordinator and a Fairmount Township firefighter) and say 'I screwed up.'"
Peterman is scheduled to be in court Thursday afternoon for a pre-trial hearing.
He is currently on unpaid, administrative leave from the sheriff's department. If convicted of the misdemeanor homicide charge, Peterman could face either a year in jail or a year of probation.
A copy of the charges against Peterman indicate he "unlawfully and unintentionally killed Jared M. Moore by the operation of a motor vehicle, and that the defendant operated said vehicle in a manner which created an unreasonable risk of injury to the person or property of another and which constituted a material deviation from the standard care which a reasonable person would observe under the same circumstances."
A story on Peterman's pre-trial hearing will appear Thursday on The Sentinel Web site, www.basehorinfo.com.