Family sues Washington County Sheriff’s Office for 2017 pursuit

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 6:10 PM CDT
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BLAIR, Neb. (WOWT) - A heartbroken mother finally gets her day in court in Washington County.

And for the first time, the public could see video of the police pursuit.

It was November of 2017 at 10:30 p.m. along a county road south of Fort Calhoun

A Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy pulled Jackson Potadle, 19, over for going eight mph over the speed limit -- 53 in a 45.

As Deputy Ashley Brammer writes Potadle a warning in her cruiser, Sgt. Jake Hoffman arrived at the scene.

The supervisor walked up to the sedan and said he smelled marijuana. They are going to search the car.

“Alright, Jackson. Unlock the door,” Brammer said. Potadle drove off and the deputies gave chase.

Two miles down the road and not far from home, Potadle lost control on a curve and hit a tree. He stopped breathing a short time later.

“There should never have been a pursuit for a misdemeanor,” said Vicki Ahmann, Potadle’s mother. She sued the sheriff’s office for wrongful death.

Ahmann wants them to change their pursuit policy.

“You did nothing wrong. You did everything you should have,” said Sheriff Mike Robinson in court.

“I can’t believe this happened. All because we were going to search his vehicle for the odor of marijuana and he took off,” Brammer said.

In court, the sheriff and supervisor on the scene both testified Wednesday they followed their policies and were comfortable with the decisions to give chase that night.

Ahmann replays the nightmare in her head over and over again.

“I’ve begged him -- Jack, why did you run? Why did you run?” she said.

Ahmann believes pursuits should only happen for felonies and when you’re a danger to others.

Jim Schaefer, attorney for Potadle’s family said it was a minor crime.

“They know where he lived and who he was. There was no reason to chase him,” Schaefer said.

There was no ruling from the court Monday, which may not happen until August at the earliest.

Attorneys revealed in court Monday Brammer is no longer employed in law enforcement.

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