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Family Of 17-Year-Old Killed In Car Wreck Sues Kansas City Police Officer Who Caused It

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KCUR 89.3
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in Jackson County Circuit Court against a Kansas City police officer who caused a car wreck near Arrowhead Stadium that killed a Shawnee Mission teenager.

The family of a Shawnee Mission South senior killed in a traffic accident on I-435 last month is suing the Kansas City police officer who caused the crash.

Chandan Rajanna, 17, was driving with his father, Krishna Rajanna, and sister, Lisa Allen, to join the rest of their family at the Chiefs game on October 21 when off-duty KCPD officer Terrell Watkins rammed into the back of their car in heavy traffic. 

The impact of the police van caused Rajanna's car to slam into the vehicle in front of it, and crash into the guardrail alongside the road. 

The wrongful death lawsuit says Watkins' "negligence" caused the severe injuries and ultimate death of Rajanna. Two other lawsuits filed on behalf of the two passengers state the same case — that Watkins was going too fast, exceeding the posted speed limit and the appropriate speed given the slow traffic conditions, and was following too closely. 

The family's attorney David Morantz released a statement on behalf of the family, which he said is not only mourning Chandan Rajanna's death, but also caring for the injuries suffered by his father and sister.

"We are anxious to learn more about what Mr. Watkins was doing, where he was driving, and at whose direction he was working at the time of the collision," Morantz said.

He added that he expects a trial would produce answers to those questions, which the KCPD has yet to provide.

The KCPD didn't release a report on the wreck for more than two weeks, notably doing so, finally, six hours after the Kansas City Star published a story on the delay. At the time, spokesperson Jake Becchina said in a statement "thoroughness cannot be sacrificed for the sake of expediency." He also said he hoped to be able to turn the complete investigation over to the Jackson County prosecutor's office in the coming weeks. 

As of Tuesday, the investigation was ongoing. Due to pending litigation, the KCPD declined to provide a comment on the lawsuits, but Becchina told KCUR the officer, who also suffered injuries from the crash, has not returned to work since the October incident. 

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope.

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