JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of a 62-year-old man who was hit and killed by a Jacksonville police officer in 2017 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the now former officer and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Video evidence shows Blane Land leaving a Burger King and walking across University Boulevard outside of a crosswalk around 9:45 p.m. May 10, 2007, according to attorney John Phillips.
Land was then hit by a JSO cruiser driven by Officer Tim James and died of his injuries.
James said he was responding to a call, but he did not have his emergency lights or siren on.
Lawyers for Land’s family accuse the Sheriff’s Office of giving the public misinformation after the crash, which the attorneys argue painted the victim in the wrong light. They accuse the Sheriff's Office of intentionally releasing misinformation after the crash.
The initial public statement on Land's death said he was potentially suicidal and confused Land with another person who crossed the street a few seconds before Land stepped off the curb. Police also implied that Land was homeless.
Land's sister, Stacy Land, said that characterization of her brother wasn’t true and caused her family more grief.
“Different things showed up: suicide by cop, he was homeless, he was addicted -- one said he wasn’t wearing clothes when he got run over by traffic,” Stacy Land said.
She said her brother was in Jacksonville on a business trip and was not homeless or suicidal. Her family wants JSO to publicly retract the incorrect information, but that request has been refused.
“He says, 'Well, we don’t have to go back and reset the story in the course of an investigation. That’s not our practice,'” Stacy Land said. “I was like, 'Really? If that had been your mother or cousin, you’d insist on it, too.'”
Stacy Land said how the Sheriff's Office handled the aftermath of the deadly crash was unacceptable.
"This was not a mistake," she said. "It was deliberate, and they doubled down time after time."
In the family's lawsuit filed this month, Phillips calls the misinformation given in the police briefing “malicious,” and accuses the Sheriff's Office of “exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety or property.”
Phillips said the video at the scene, which refutes JSO's initial account, shows a man crossing University in the same area moments before an ambulance passes. The video then shows another man, Land, entering the street and being struck by James' cruiser. The impact threw him up and over the patrol car.
James was not charged with the accident but has since resigned as part of a plea deal in another case involving the beating of a handcuffed teenager.
The lawsuit claims Land's parents lost their caretaker and have had the pain of their loss compounded by “un-retracted and purposeful untruths” from JSO.
Phillips said James was personally named in the lawsuit because of his history of problems at the department. He says JSO was protecting the officer, who had a “consistent pattern of misconduct,” including several previous crashes and the incident with the handcuffed teenager.
Phillips said James shouldn't have been on the road when he hit and killed Blane Land.
“This is as abusive of an officer over a history of years that I’ve ever seen,” Phillips said.
News4Jax has contacted the Sheriff's Office for comment on the lawsuit, and we are waiting for a response.