Judge rules for Kokomo, Battle Ground in police pursuit crash suit

A judge has ruled in favor of two northern Indiana communities facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the father of a 15-year-old boy who died in a crash during a police pursuit.

A Tippecanoe County judge granted summary judgment last week to the city of Kokomo and the town of Battle Ground after Travis Abston Sr. failed to appear at a court hearing. The Aug. 28 ruling can be appealed, the Kokomo Tribune reported.

Abston sued the two communities last year, alleging that negligence by both defendants had resulted in the death of his son, Travis Abston Jr. of Battle Ground. The suit seeks a judgment against the defendants and financial damages.

Abston’s son  died in a September 2018 two-car crash as he was driving his father’s car and being pursued by Kokomo police. An autopsy found methamphetamine in his system.

At the time of the crash, the Kokomo Police Department considered Travis Abston Jr. “possibly armed and dangerous” and possibly intending to injure a person in Kokomo. No gun was found on the youth after the crash.

Much of Abston’s lawsuit is focused on the question of whether his son should have been designated as “possibly armed and dangerous.” He alleges Battle Ground Town Marshal Jerry Burk told Kokomo police the teen was or could be in possession of a gun after seeing a 2017 photo on the teen’s cellphone of the youth holding a gun.

Both Burk and the town have denied telling told Kokomo police the teen was or could be armed.

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