Waveland Sued for Wrongful Death

The family of a Mexican immigrant has filed suit in Hancock County Circuit Court against the City of Waveland, Waveland Police Officer Darryl Russell, and a Bay St. Louis man, who were all involved in the fatal crash that killed Francisco Mendoza on Sept. 21, 2009.

The suit seeks to recover unspecified real and punitive damages.

Mendoza, 33, was living in Bay St. Louis on Sept 21, 2009. About 8 o'clock that evening, he was riding his bicycle on Highway 90 near the Bay St. Louis post office when a chain reaction accident caused him to be thrown from his bike and into a nearby parking lot, authorities said.

He was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol investigated the crash and found Russell to be the person who caused it.

At the time of the accident, Russell was making a left-turn lane in front of the Bay St. Louis Post Office on Hwy. 90 facing east – ready to u-turn and head back towards Waveland – when a Bay P.D. advisory came over the radio describing a suspect in a robbery just minutes earlier at The Store on Old Spanish Trail, Mississippi Highway Patrol Cpl. Johnny Poulos said in September.

During that robbery, the store clerk was beaten up and had to be transported to the hospital. The robbery has yet to be solved.

"After receiving the description of the suspect," Poulos said. "Russell observed a person on a bicycle who was traveling eastbound in the (far right) emergency lane of Hwy. 90. (The officer) turned his blue lights on and attempted to cross the left lane of Hwy. 90, which he did, then attempted to cross into the right lane. That's when a Cadillac Escalade, also east-bound, collided with the police car."

The accident caused the driver of the Escalade to lose control and collide with Mendoza, Poulos said.

The official MHP investigation concluded that Russell failed to yield to the oncoming traffic.

The lawsuit, however, claims that Russell did not turn on his blue lights or engage his sirens.

It also lists the driver of the Escalade, John C. Baudoin, as a party in the suit.

The suit says that Baudoin had a "duty to exercise the reasonable care of an ordinary prudent operator of a motor vehicle."

Baudoin, 24, is represented by Bay St. Louis attorney Donald Rafferty.

Rafferty said Monday that his client also suffered "severe" injuries as a result of the crash.

"It was my impression that the state found the officer at fault," Rafferty said. "We have been notified of the lawsuit and we will let the jury decide what really happened."

Waveland City Attorney Gary Yarborough said Monday he was just learning of the lawsuit and did not wish to make any comment about it at this time.

Russell, a veteran of the Waveland Police Department, was also injured in the crash.

He returned to duty a few weeks later and is still employed by the city as a patrol officer.

No charges were ever filed in the case.

Juana Suarez, a resident of Montery, Mexico, filed the suit on behalf of Mendoza's estate.

Attorney Vicki Gilliam of Clinton, Ms., is representing the family.

Gilliam said Tuesday that family members are still grieving the loss of Mendoza, and they still have many questions surrounding the case."

"The pain suffered by this family is only multiplied by the unanswered questions as to how their son could be killed by such a reckless act of a law enforcement officer and how there has been no ownership of responsibility," she said. "The filing of a lawsuit is a last resort in an attempt to seek truth and justice in a situation where there has, to date, been an absence of both."