SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The city of Sacramento on Tuesday agreed to pay nearly $10 million to a couple whose 9-month-old son was killed when they were rear-ended by an unmarked police vehicle.
Steve and Chrystal Saechao were stopped in heavy traffic on Interstate 80 in December 2013 when an off-duty officer driving his kids in a department-issued Ford Explorer hit them at about 60 mph (97 kph), the Sacramento Bee reported. Raiden was secured in a child seat in the Saechao’s Toyota Scion, but died from head trauma at a hospital several days later.
The couple had gone through several miscarriages as well as the death of their first newborn before Raiden was born.
“He didn’t take away all the pain but he gave us hope,” Steve Saechao said of their son in a news release from the couple’s attorneys, the Demas Law Group. “His eyes and smile lit up our lives. Then in a split second … he was taken away from us.”
After a three-year court battle with the city, they have settled for $9.75 million.
The lawsuit, brought after prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, alleged that then-Officer Greg Mark Halstead’s distracted driving caused the accident and Raiden’s death.
Halstead, who still works for the police department and is now a sergeant, denied the allegations in court documents. His attorney declined comment to the Bee.
Before the settlement, the city had argued in court documents that Halstead was not working for them at the time of the crash.
Calls to the Sacramento city attorney by the newspaper and The Associated Press were not immediately returned.
The couple said in their statement that they plan to donate part of the money toward raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.
“I don’t have the words to describe the pain and suffering we’ve endured for more than three years,” the boy’s mother Chrystal Saechao said. “Life can be very, very tough, and I had no choice but to get myself back up, to get out of bed and fight for Raiden. We had to prove that our son had value and that he meant something.”
Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com