The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office and a former deputy are being sued for a building fire last year that started when the deputy initiated a high-speed chase, causing his squad car to go airborne and crash into the building.
Ohio Security Insurance Company is suing the department and the former deputy, Christopher Dugger, on behalf of the Willow Lake Office Condominium Association, Inc., which owns the property damaged in Vadnais Heights.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court, alleges that Dugger's squad car was traveling 101 miles per hour on May 29, 2014, when it crashed into the condo office's gas main. The ensuing fire engulfed the office, causing more than $750,000 in damage.
The suit, which is seeking damages of more than $50,000, claims that Dugger was "carelessly, negligently and improperly engaging in a pursuit without proper justification … failing to terminate the pursuit in the interest of public safety."
On Thursday, a Sheriff's Office spokesperson said Dugger no longer was an employee.
According to the suit: A sport-utility vehicle traveling west on Willow Lake Boulevard flashed its high-beam lights at Dugger, who was driving a marked squad car east toward International Drive.
Dugger turned around at the intersection and tried to catch up to the SUV, which was traveling 60 mph in a 40-mph zone. Dugger turned on his lights and sirens and "continued to accelerate the patrol squad until it was traveling 101 mph …" the suit said.
Dugger's car struck a raised concrete curb when he failed to negotiate a curve, knocking out a 4-foot section. His car then traveled over the curb, up a grass embankment and became airborne.
His car landed and then hit the building, the suit alleges. Dugger was not hurt.
In 2008, Dugger was a confidential paid informant for the Sheriff's Office and infiltrated activists before the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. In 2012, it was revealed that he accessed Minnesota's driver database nearly 2,000 times over two years. Many of his queries were made while he was off-duty, according to his personnel file. He searched records for Prince, friends, his ex-wife, co-workers and "members of the public."