A Pembina County deputy is suing the sheriff and the board of commissioners for damages he incurred while defending himself from charges filed against him after he responded to a fatal high-speed chase.
According to court documents, Deputy Patrick Swift was on duty when he was notified on April 28, 2018, that there was a reckless driver about 2 miles south of Cavalier on Highway 18. He saw a car that matched the 911 caller’s description and initiated a traffic stop by turning on the patrol car’s lights and siren, Swift’s report said. The driver sped away from Swift and he followed, with speeds reportedly reaching 90 mph, according to the report.
The driver, later identified as 45-year-old Dena M. Peterson, careened into the ditch after passing the Highway 5 bridge in Cavalier, the report said. Peterson veered back toward the road but ran into the approach; the report said her vehicle went airborne, then flipped two times.
The entire pursuit lasted about a minute and a half.
Firefighters and paramedics arrived and the roof of Peterson’s car was removed so she could be extracted from the car, the report said. She was taken to Pembina County Memorial Hospital and later died from her injuries. Officers said alcohol was believed to be a factor.
On May 6, Swift was cited for reckless driving and speeding during the pursuit. A court document detailing the charge said “the patrol vehicle Deputy Swift was operating did not have a working siren,” which made him ineligible for defenses normally available to a police officer.
Both charges were dismissed by the end of January, but now Swift is seeking to recover the money he spent to defend himself in court. The civil suit, filed in Pembina County District Court on Sept. 4, said Swift is seeking $11,300 for attorney fees and other costs resulting from the defendants’ “negligence, including but not limited to providing plaintiff an improperly equipped patrol vehicle.”
Sheriff Terry Meidinger, the Pembina County Board of Commissioners and its chairman, Jim Benjaminson, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The defendants denied many of the claims in a written response filed Thursday, Sept. 12. The court document claims Swift “failed to mitigate damages” and the “damages resulted from his own actions and/or negligence.”
The defendants requested the court dismiss Swift’s lawsuit.