Family sues Lake County sheriff after deadly crash

Deputies chased man who ran red light at speeds up to 130 mph

By Louis Bolden - Investigative Reporter

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - A local family is suing the Sheriff of Lake County after their son was killed during a high-speed chase.
            
Yadira Santiago and Carlos Sanchez filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell after their son was killed in a deadly crash that followed a chase.

The chase violated the department's policy, and according to the lawsuit, a high ranking sheriff's office employee is to blame.

"Its been very hard." Santiago said.  "It changed our lives."

The lawsuit claims a sheriff's deputy's negligence led to the wrongful death of 19-year-old Carlos Sanchez-Santiago.

"Your kids are supposed to bury you, not the other way around," Santiago said.  

In April 2017, Sanchez-Santiago was driving home from work at Universal Studios as Lake County deputies tried to pull over a driver who had run a red light.

A camera from a deputy's cruiser captured what happened next.

According to reports, the driver, 23-year-old Wilvenson Darius, didn't stop and deputies chased him.

The chase went for miles around Lake County and one deputy admitted traveling 130 mph, according to reports obtained by News 6.

Minutes later, as Darius crossed the county line leaving Lake County and entering Orange County, deputies say he lost control, and crashed head-on into Sanchez-Santiago's car. 

"Why chase?" Sanchez said.  "I'm not happy and the system is not good," he said.

The lawsuit alleges Deputy Joshua Creech violated the chase policy of the defendant in the lawsuit. Dashcam video and radio communications later revealed Creech lied about what happened.

Before the crash Creech followed the driver to a dead-end road. That's when Creech reports the driver tried to hit him.

"He just tried to hit me head on," Creech can be heard saying in radio transmissions.

But the dashcam video shows Darius' mustang driving past as Creech walks toward it. 

"The dashcam video contradicts Creech's statement," according to an Internal Affairs Report obtained by News 6 .

But that statement kicked the chase into high gear, because Lake County policy does allow deputies to pursue suspects accused of forcible felonies.

"I blame the police," Sanchez told News 6.

"They don't have to do that for minor infractions," Santiago said.

"As a direct and proximate result of the negligence of Lake County Deputy Joshua Creech, and vicarious negligence of Defendant Peyton C. Grinnell, Carlos Sanchez Santiago suffered death," the lawsuit alleges.

"Nothing that happens in this world is going to bring him back, so I would like justice so it doesn't happen to anybody else," Santiago said.

The man who was running from deputies, Darius was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced in December to 20 years in prison, plus 10 years of probation. 

Grinnell filed a response to the lawsuit saying he and his deputies are not liable for the crash that killed Sanchez-Santiago.

"Darius' actions of violating traffic laws and felony fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer were the sole cause of subject accident," according to the sheriff's response.

Creech is still employed at the Lake County Sheriff's Office.  After the Internal Affairs investigation he lost 10 vacation days as punishment.

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