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Woman shot by officer sues York City Police

Written by Mike Argento/York Daily Record | Dec 19, 2016 10:16 AM
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(York) -- A Dover woman who was wounded by police after a chase in December 2014 has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the York City police and others.

Erika Eberhardinger had been a passenger in a car that had been pursued by officers in the early morning hours of Dec. 19, a pursuit that ended with Eberhardinger being shot three times.

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. Middle District Court, claims that police used excessive force in ending the chase, violating Eberhardinger's constitutional rights.

The officers involved in the chase, Benjamin Praster and Benjamin Smith, had been cleared of any wrongdoing in September 2015, when York County District Attorney Tom Kearney ruled the shooting as justified.

According to the suit, Eberhardinger was a passenger in a Mitsubishi Lancer driven by Matthew Foster when the chase began. The suit says she, Foster and another person left the Banana Max Bar & Grill at 1:45 a.m. with Eberhardinger in the front passenger seat and the other personin the back.

At about 2 a.m., the suit states, Praster witnessed Foster allegedly run a stop sign at the intersection of Wallace and State streets and began pursuit, calling for backup as he chased Foster.

Foster turned onto Gay Street and saw, heading toward him, a police cruiser driven by Smith. Foster tried to back up, but hit a telephone pole. At that point, Smith was out of his car and was approaching Foster's vehicle.

Foster threw the car into drive and drove toward Smith. Smith drew his firearm and fired four shots into the car's windshield. Three of the rounds struck Eberhardinger in the face, forearm and hand. Neither Foster nor the other passengerwere injured.

The suit, which in addition to the city and its police department, names the individual officers, Foster and State Farm Insurance, alleges that the officers were negligent and "shot and wounded Eberhardinger without legal justification."

The suit further claims that the city and its police department failed to adequately train its officers to know when deadly force is appropriate.

The suit also claims that "a continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct" by officers existed at the time of the shooting - a pattern that included "improper, unwarranted" uses of deadly force. It also cited what it claimed was a pattern of officers discharging firearms, employing high-speed pursuits and committing acts of excessive force.

The suit claims that the city and its police department "exhibited a deliberate indifference to, or tacit authorization of, this pattern of misconduct." And it alleges that Foster was negligent in that he had operated the vehicle after consuming alcohol and marijuana "with reckless indifference and willful and wanton disregard to the rights of others" and that he had fled police when Praster tried to pull him over for a traffic violation.

In August 2015, Foster, 24, was sentenced to two to four years in state prison after pleading guilty to a variety of charges related to the chase, including driving under the influence, according to court records. He is in the State Correctional Institute at Houtzdale in Clearfield County.

The suit seeks an undisclosed amount to compensate Eberhardinger for her pain and suffering and for the violations of her civil rights.

Eberhardinger's lawyer, Patrick Best, of Bethlehem, said, "Our general point is that if you're going to fire a weapon, you should be sure of where the bullets are going to land."

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley referred questions about the suit to the city's attorney, who did not immediately return a phone call.


This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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