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Monday, November 17, 2014

State Trooper's Careless Driving Kills Woman

     At three-thirty in the morning of Saturday July 5, 2014, Pennsylvania State Trooper Frederick Schimp, with another officer in the police utility vehicle, ran a stop sign in Fairview Township just west of the lakeside city of Erie. The officers were not responding to an emergency.

     A vehicle driven by 57-year-old Donna Platz from nearby Edinboro, Pennsylvania, plowed into the troopers' 2013 Ford Explorer. An hour later, the Erie County Coroner pronounced Donna Platz dead at the scene.

     Members of the Fairview, Pennsylvania Fire Department cut the officers out of the badly damaged police vehicle. Trooper Schimp, 48, and his Troop E partner, 26-year-old Garrett Padasak, were taken to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Hamot Trauma Unit. After being treated for "moderate" injuries, the officers were released the next day.

     The district attorney of Erie County declined to bring homicide charges against Trooper Schimp. While the officer's actions did violate the legal standard of due care, his behavior did not rise to the criminal standard of recklessness, a degree of negligence needed to justify a charge of homicide. (Reckless behavior involves a knowing disregard for the safety of others.)

     The local prosecutor charged Trooper Schimp with careless driving, a summary offense that imposes a six-month driver's license suspension in cases involving fatalities.

     On November 14, 2014, at a summary trial before Judge Paul Manzi, Trooper Schimp pleaded guilty to carless driving. The conviction placed the officer in danger of losing his job. Because he was just two years shy of the state police retirement age, termination had an enormous impact on this officer's life.

     Pending the results of an internal inquiry into the fatal accident, Trooper Schimp was placed on paid administrative leave.

     Regardless of whether or not Trooper Schimp remains on the force, the state of Pennsylvania and this officer can expect a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Donna Platz's family. This case is not over. 

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