Family files $50 million claim over officer-involved fatal crash

SAN DIEGO - A family filed a $50 million claim this week against the San Diego Police Department, claiming a patrol officer responding to a call was at fault for a collision that killed a man.

The official police report has not been released from the November crash, but the family said witnesses saw the incident and blame the officer.

Mark McCaffrey owned Rocket Motorcycles. He was married and left behind three children, including Diana McCaffrey.

"He had so much to give," McCaffrey said. "Ever since I could remember, my dad was on a bike."

According to public records obtained by Team 10, two witnesses said an officer was in the second car in line at a red light at the intersection of Mount Everest Boulevard and Balboa Avenue.

Witnesses say the officer suddenly drove around the first car in line, accelerated and made an illegal U-turn at the red light onto Balboa Avenue.

They said the officer went directly into the path of McCaffrey, who was traveling east on Balboa Avenue and had a green light.

The witnesses said put 100 percent fault on the police department.

"Mark is coming, he has the green light," said John Gomez of Gomez Trial Attorneys, who is representing the McCaffrey family. "It's his intersection. Everyone says he didn't have a chance."

While the police report has not yet been released, the county medical examiner's report said while waiting at the light, the officer heard about the pursuit of a hit-and-run suspect over his radio.

"It does no good to hurry off to join a chase that is exciting to this officer if you are going to kill somebody," Gomez said.

The report also states the officer had his lights and siren on.

"Putting a light bar on your car does not give you the right to cut off drivers, make illegal moves or act like a cowboy," Gomez said.

The family said they are devastated over how police on the scene of the crash site treated McCaffrey's son. He had gone to look for his dad when he never came home and came upon the crash site.

"'Hey -- I know that's my dad's bike,'" said Diana, his sister. "The cop said, 'He didn't make it.'"

She said what the officer said next shocked them.

"'Oh, was your dad a rebel motorcycle driver, a reckless rider?' All these things that imply negative connotations about my dad," Diana said.

The medical examiner's report shows McCaffrey was wearing a helmet and going the speed limit.

Diana said her brother was mistreated again.

"My brother didn't want to tell his own mother that this happened," she said. "So, he asked the police officer if one of them could accompany him and they refused … he had to break the news to his mother."

"'He said, 'I'm sorry that I'm telling you. I asked the police officers to come with me, but they didn't want to come,'" said McCaffrey's widow, Maria.

"It really breaks my heart and disgusts me," Diana said.

The police department would not tell Team 10 why the official crash report has not yet been released. The department also would not answer questions about policy on cars responding to calls or how the family was treated at the scene.

SDPD spokesman Lt. Kevin Mayer said litigation prevented the department from giving answers, but he offered this statement:

"The loss of life during any accident is a significant tragedy and the impact is far reaching. Our sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with Mark McCaffrey's family and friends. Being this incident appears to be headed towards civil litigation against the SDPD and the City, we cannot provide any further comment."

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