Santa Monica police car
MyNewsLA photo by Clancy O'Dessky

A Santa Monica police officer is suing the city and a fellow officer, alleging a lack of training caused a collision of their patrol SUVs in 2020 when both were responding to emergency calls.

Officer Cain Mora’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges violation of due process and seeks unspecified damages. He maintains he proceeded on a green signal and that the other officer, Jason Ziegler, drove through a red light, causing the collision of the patrol vehicles.

A representative for the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Wednesday.

This suit stems from a traffic collision that occurred about 8:30 p.m. Dec. 26, 2020, at the intersection of Pico Boulevard and 11th Street. Ziegler, responding to an emergency call, was driving west on Pico and was approaching a red traffic light at the intersection at about 55 mph with his emergency lights and siren activated, the suit states.

Mora was headed north on 11th Street with a green signal at about 35 mph, also with his lights and siren on, also responding to an emergency call, the suit states.

Ziegler “failed to or otherwise improperly cleared the intersection” and collided with the right side of Mora’s SUV, which sustained major damage, including a crushed front end, the suit states.

Ziegler’s SUV also was severely damaged, including a broken windshield, according to the complaint.

Mora and Ziegler were hospitalized and the SMPD requested that the CHP assist with the collision investigation, which found in January 2021 that Ziegler “did not properly clear the intersection and failed to operate (his SUV) with due regard for the safety of cross traffic,” the suit states.

The CHP further concluded that Ziegler caused the collision after entering the intersection against a red light and “failing to safely clear the Intersection,” the suit states.

Ziegler told the CHP investigator that he could not recall the traffic collision or how it happened, but that he did remember waking up in the hospital, the suit states.

Mora believes the SMPD “had a practice or custom of failing to train its officers or failing to sufficiently train its officers, including defendant Ziegler, how to properly and adequately clear intersections while operating authorized emergency vehicles in response to emergency calls,” the suit states.

Alternatively, Mora alleges the city “adopted and/or promulgated one or more policies and/or practices wherein its officers were permitted or instructed to operate emergency vehicles carelessly and/or without due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway,” the suit states.

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