A two-day bench trial has been set in a lawsuit filed against Washington County and Sheriff Mike Robinson over the death of a Fort Calhoun teenager who was killed in an accident after fleeing a traffic stop in 2017.
Vicki Ahmann filed the lawsuit March 25 in Washington County District Court in the death of her son, Jackson Potadle, 19. She is seeking $1 million in damages.
Judge John E. Samson set the trial for July 1. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for June 8.
Potadle died in a high-speed crash Nov. 10, 2017, after he ran from sheriff's deputies in the 2400 block of County Road P43. Deputy Ashley Brammer and Sgt. Jacob Hoffman were preparing to search the vehicle due to the smell of marijuana coming from inside when Potadle took off north at a high rate of speed.
Brammer attempted, but was unable to catch the vehicle. A few moments later, she came upon the crashed car lodged in a grove of trees in the 4600 block of CR P43, just west of U.S. Highway 75.
According to information from a grand jury investigation, an accident re-constructionist with the Nebraska State Patrol (NSP) estimated Potadle had to have been driving at a minimum of 88 to 91 mph at the beginning of the skid, where the posted speed drops from 50 mph to 25 mph.
The NSP's investigation noted Potadle's vehicle struck a tree with enough force to uproot it and turn the vehicle approximately 180 degrees.
The deputies attempted to render aid and called for medical assistance, but Potadle died at the scene.
A toxicology report revealed Potadle had THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his system.
State troopers found marijuana, a pipe used to smoke marijuana and brass knuckles with a knife on the driver's side floorboard of the vehicle.
In her lawsuit, Ahmann contends the deputies violated Washington County's pursuit policy, including that the reason for the stop did not justify the pursuit and the stop was not a felony nor a misdemeanor, but “merely a traffic citation.”
The litigation also says Hoffman had the authority to cancel the pursuit, but he did not.
Robinson testified to the grand jury that he reviewed the evidence surrounding the stop and pursuit and found “there were no violations of policy whatsoever” and that he not only didn't discipline anyone as a result, but “commended them for what they did.”
NSP Sgt. John Mobley, who investigated the accident, determined that the cause of the crash was “Potadle's operation of the vehicle at a willful reckless speed and his possible impairment due to a known controlled substance in his body.”
Mobley noted that marijuana is a known depressant, which can cause a person's ability to perceive and react to known threats to be decreased and causes slower reaction times.
During its investigation, the NSP found there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of deputies.