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Wed 18th Jan | 2023

Riviera Beach Police Chase Claims Life of 18-Year-Old Woman, Family Retains Clark Fountain’s Jennifer A. Dinetz

Accidents Car Accidents In the News Personal Injury BY

Riviera Beach, FLA. – January 18, 2023 – Following a 100+ mph high-speed police chase that claimed the lives of 18-year-old D’Asia Monroe and her boyfriend, surviving family members of Ms. Monroe retained attorney Jennifer A. Dinetz to investigate. Dinetz determined that the chase at speeds of more than 100 mph through multiple intersections on a main traffic thoroughfare was a blatant violation of longstanding department policy and was the direct cause of a crash into a canal resulting in the drowning deaths of two teenagers. An internal affairs investigation by the Riviera Beach Police Department initially reached the same conclusion, but then retracted its own finding.

On March 6, 2022, Riviera Beach Police Sgt. Tabitha Smith witnessed Ms. Monroe commit a minor traffic infraction by striking another vehicle at the intersection of Blue Heron Blvd. and Garden Road.  Ms. Monroe started to pull to the side of the road, but when Sgt. Smith activated her lights and sirens Ms. Monroe continued down Blue Heron Blvd. The high-speed pursuit through multiple traffic light-controlled intersections concluded when Ms. Monroe’s vehicle struck a sidewalk at the intersection of Blue Heron Blvd. and Military Trail, causing her vehicle to flip and submerge in the canal.

Sgt. Smith witnessed Ms. Monroe’s vehicle completely submerge into the water, trapping both occupants, and failed to render aid. Due to Sgt. Smith’s negligent behavior prior to the crash and her reckless abandonment thereafter, both Ms. Monroe and her passenger died from drowning.

As a twenty-seven (27) year officer on the force, and the acting captain of the shift the evening of the crash, Sgt. Tabitha Smith was very aware of the Department’s internal policy authorizing high-speed pursuits only when (1) the officer has a reasonable belief the suspect has committed a forcible felony or (2) when the officer has a reasonable belief the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public. 

The policy also required officers to immediately “deactivate lights and sirens and discontinue following the vehicle or making any further attempt to stop the vehicle” when a driver fails to yield to an officer. Sgt. Smith knew that these were safety policies designed to prevent the exact type of crash that occurred in this case. Sgt. Smith also knew that her pursuit of Ms. Monroe was a direct violation of department policy.

The Riviera Beach Police Department initiated an internal affairs investigation into Sgt. Smith’s conduct which concluded with a press release issued January 12, 2023, where the RBPD found that Sgt. Smith had violated the Riviera Beach Police Department vehicle pursuit policy. A secondary investigation by Interim Police Chief, Joshua Lewis, overturned the finding, noting that since Ms. Monroe committed the traffic infraction while driving without headlights, she posed an immediate danger to the public, thereby deeming the high-speed chase with in policy – directly contradicting the internal policies the department expects each employee to heed. 

This comes after several former incidents concerning Sgt. Smith’s behavior.

According to WPTV, Sgt. Smith has been disciplined for insubordination, failing to appear in court, “insolent, rude and disrupted” behavior, and prone to vehicular crashes. Her file apparently shows seven (7) prior accidents in her squad car.

Most notably, in 1995 and in 2020, Sgt. Smith was cited for violating the department’s chase policy, described as “reckless” and using “excessive speeds” respectively.

Mourning the loss of their beloved daughter, Ms. Monroe’s surviving family retained former Assistant State Attorney, Jennifer A. Dinetz, to investigate the incident and the department’s negligence in causing Ms. Monroe’s untimely death.

“Sgt. Smith’s decision to pursue Ms. Monroe was irresponsible, unreasonable and a clear violation of the known internal policies,” Dinetz remarked. “The Riviera Beach Police Department allowed an employee with a history of insubordination and reckless behavior to not only commit additional offenses that cost Ms. Monroe her life but have continued to support her negligent behavior. This sets a scary precedent for other members of our community.”

Prior to joining the Clark Fountain, Dinetz worked for the State Attorney’s Office in the 15th Judicial Circuit focusing her practice on felony and violent crimes.

Joining Dinetz as the lead investigator is Jason Jabcuga, former Major Crimes Detective for the City of Delray Beach. Before joining the firm, Jabcuga led investigations involving homicides, violent crimes, and vehicular homicides for the department. In addition, Jabcuga served on the Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force and is a cross-certified state investigator.

If you have information related to the incident, please call Clark Fountain at 561-277-3367 or visit ClarkFountain.com.

About Clark Fountain

Based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, Littky-Rubin & Whitman, has been representing clients in all areas of personal injury litigation, including automobile and trucking crashes, product liability, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and negligent security law for over four decades.

The prestigious plaintiff personal injury firm has a longstanding history of successfully litigating complex cases and its phenomenal track record of obtaining record-setting verdicts and settlements for their injured clients in Florida and throughout the United States.

For more information or to book an interview, please call 561-277-3367 or email jdinetz@clarkfountain.com.

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