A state judge has moved a lawsuit against the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, deciding that a federal court should decide if deputies are liable for a high-speed crash that killed a seven-year-old girl in August 2012.
Queniya Tykia Shelton died after the SUV her mother was driving lost control and crashed on Interstate 85. Deputies say then the mother Errika Shelton, then 26, had been fleeing from a traffic stop at speeds over 100 miles per hour. The younger Shelton died after she was ejected from the flipping SUV.
Errika’s mother Trena Rice filed a lawsuit against the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Chuck Wright and the deputy who initiated the chase in April, according to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Rice had sought a civil trial in state court, but Judge Derham Cole sided with attorneys representing the sheriff’s office and moved the case to federal jurisdiction.
Rice’s lawsuit claims deputies drove “carelessly and recklessly” in their pursuit of Shelton. Sheriff Wright said the deputies did not realize a child was in the SUV until they saw the child safety seat after the crash.
Wright has not commented on the lawsuit, but said at the time that he believed his deputies acted properly. “We are the police and we chase bad guys,” he told reporters the day of the crash, “That’s been happening ever since it’s been horseback. We’re not at fault in this wreck.”
Shelton pleaded guilty in May 2013 to failure to stop for a blue light with a death involved, habitual offender with a death, reckless homicide, child neglect, driving under suspension, and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. She was sentenced to 13 years in prison, followed by five years of probation.