SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — The family of a Batesville grandmother killed as an innocent bystander during a law enforcement pursuit planned to file a lawsuit, after a WREG investigation called in to question whether deputies should’ve initiated the pursuit in the first place.
“Both of my daughters they cry every day. They miss her. My 13-year-old nephew cries every day because they miss her. They don’t understand,” Terria McMinn said of her mother, Lisa Gay.
Gay, 51, was on her way to work as a home health nurse last November when suspects fleeing from deputies hit her car and killed her in Marshall County last November. However, DeSoto County deputies initiated the pursuit.
Ever since, McMinn said she’s been trying to get information from the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office.
“When they started not wanting to answer questions, give us a reason why they did what they did, that’s when me and my dad discussed it, decided it was time to get legal involved and make sure everything was followed,” McMinn said.
WREG has been investigating the same thing; we obtained radio dispatch transcripts from that day showing deputies pursued what they called a “stolen vehicle,” defined as a rental car “not returned to Avis” at a Florida airport.
WREG also filed a public records request for the DeSoto County pursuit policy; it showed deputies should take into account 12 factors including the seriously of the suspected crime, before initiating a pursuit.
WREG then spoke with Bennie Cobb, a retired captain from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, about how the pursuit policy applied to the accident.
“I’ve read that pursuit policy and it does not follow that policy. It actually goes outside what the policy says,” Cobb said. “The consequences certainly weren’t worth it. It was not justified and a life was lost for a vehicle not returned to the rental company.”
Clint Martin, an attorney representing Lisa Gay’s family, said once he heard Cobb say that in a WREG report, he knew they had a case for a lawsuit, though he and McMinn are actually hoping they find the opposite.
“If procedures were followed we want to be fair and let that go and the family feels the same way,” Martin said.
McMinn says her gut tells her otherwise.
“If everything was followed, that’s fine. We’ll accept that. But at end of the day they need more training how to make decisions under pressure. Make sure no one else has to deal with this,” she said. “Our taxes pay these people. We should be able to trust them, to trust that when it comes down to it in a split second decision you’re going to make the right decision.”
Deputies eventually caught up with the fleeing suspects and arrested them in another county. McMinn doubts if that arrest was worth her mother’s life.
WREG’s Stacy Jacobson has submitted records requests to get the names and personnel files of the deputies involved but the sheriff’s office rejected that request on the grounds that the deputies are witnesses in the connected criminal case against the fleeing driver.
WREG has also asked DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco for a comment about his deputies’ conduct. So far, they have not given any responses we can report on the record.