Parents drop lawsuit in 2014 death of Iowa patrol detainee
By RYAN J. FOLEY
Jul. 18, 2017
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The parents of a handcuffed detainee killed in a 2014 highway accident after escaping from an Iowa State Patrol car have dropped their lawsuit against the state, their lawyer confirmed Tuesday.
Matthew Lentzkow's parents believe they achieved their goal of learning facts of the incident that were not publicized by law enforcement officials and are ready to move on, attorney Joseph Cacciatore said.
Lentzkow, 36, was stopped by state trooper Matthew Papin for drunken driving after he was driving erratically on Interstate 80 in central Iowa in the early morning of Nov. 1, 2014. Two deputies from Jasper County responded to give Papin backup.
Police video shows Lentzkow tried to flee from the officers on foot during the arrest, and he was tackled and handcuffed. The deputies then offered to put Lentzkow in their vehicle, which was equipped with a backseat safety cage to transport suspects. Papin declined and instead buckled Lentzkow in the front passenger seat of his patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back.
All three officers then left Lentzkow while they went to search his truck about 50 feet away for contraband. Lentzkow managed to unbuckle his seat belt, open the door and begin running across the interstate when he was struck by a van and died.
The lawsuit alleged that the officers were negligent by leaving Lentzkow unattended, adding that officers should have considered him a flight risk since he had already tried to run earlier in the arrest.
Cacciatore said the parents are convinced, based on what the case uncovered, that the officers did violate "basic law enforcement standards of care" but know that their son also bears responsibility for his death. A former Illinois State Police supervisor retained as an expert consultant said the officers failed in their duty to protect a detainee who was in their custody.
But Judge Paul Huscher last month dismissed the parent's claims against Jasper County and its deputies, ruling that Lentzkow was solely to blame for driving drunk and fleeing custody "on his own volition." The parents — Pam Jones of Waterloo and Gary Lentzkow of Newton — then dropped remaining claims against the state before Huscher could rule on the state's motion to dismiss. They will not receive any monetary settlement.
"They decided not to fight this battle at the appellate level," Cacciatore said. "They felt that was the best decision for their family."