Inmate involved in officer’s pursuit of bank robber wins $50,000 settlement

By: - February 3, 2022 3:58 pm

(Photo by Getty Images)

A former Lee County jail inmate has agreed to a $50,000 settlement for the alleged injuries he sustained when a fleeing bank robber fired three shots at the police car in which he was riding.

Jaymes Stark sued Lee County in 2018, alleging that he was in the custody of the jail on July 29, 2016, when Deputy Steve Sproul transported him to an eye care center for medical treatment. Stark was placed in the back of a police car with his legs and arms shackled, but with no seat belt.

Sproul and Stark were on their way back to the jail when a dispatcher sent out a call that that an armed robbery had just happened at a bank near their location in Fort Madison. Sproul drove to the bank, where he saw the robbery suspect fleeing on foot. Sproul pursued the suspect with Stark still in the back seat.

The suspect turned and fired at least three shots at Sproul’s police car, with one bullet shattering the windshield, another striking the radiator, and a third striking one door of the vehicle. Sproul took evasive action, driving through a grassy field with Stark allegedly being tossed around in the back seat. Within minutes, the robbery suspect was shot and killed by other police officers who arrived at the scene.

Claiming he was physically injured and emotionally traumatized by the incident, Stark sued the county, in part for negligence. He alleged that after he returned to the jail in the immediate aftermath of the robbery, four corrections officers attempted to intimidate him into not truthfully describing his injuries and the cause of those injuries. “They specifically said, you know, ‘This is none of your business, you don’t need to talk about it to nobody, anything that you seen, you know, keep to yourself,’” Stark testified in a deposition.

He also alleged county officials harassed him after he was released from jail in an effort to have his parole revoked, a move that he said was intended to limit his ability to pursue a civil case against the county over his alleged injuries.

As part of the lawsuit, Stark’s attorney obtained a written, professional opinion from retired Waterloo Police Captain John Beckman, who faulted Sproul for “recklessly” pursuing the suspect with Stark in the car, and for “negligently” failing to ensure that Stark was wearing a seat belt.

Last October, Stark’s attorney, David O’Brien of Cedar Rapids, asked the court for permission to withdraw from the case, telling the court he had tried to “explain to Stark all of the problems and issues with his case that will likely result in a defense verdict or a low — given the extent of his alleged injuries — damage award.”

O’Brien told the court Stark “refuses to accept any negative information” about his case “and remains of the belief that his case is worth a considerable sum of money … The bottom line is that Stark will be better off representing himself because he will not listen to anyone else.”

Before the court could rule on O’Brien’s motion to withdraw, Stark agreed to a settlement with the county. The lawsuit was dismissed by the court last week after Stark agreed to settle the case for $50,000.

Stark, however, is continuing to pursue a similar type of claim against the state of Iowa.

He alleges that four months after the robbery, on Nov. 17, 2016, he was in the custody of the state corrections system and was being transported to a medical appointment for treatment of the injuries he allegedly sustained in the pursuit of the bank robber.

While en route to that appointment, Stark was seated in the back of the van when the vehicle collided with a deer. Stark was then taken to the emergency room at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics for an evaluation and was discharged a few hours later when an X-ray showed no broken or fractured bones.

Stark sued, claiming the officers who were transporting him that day were eating while driving, speeding and smelled of alcohol. He also claimed he was not wearing a seat belt. The state has denied those allegations while acknowledging the collision with the deer.

Court records indicate Stark is currently in prison and seeking court intervention to ensure that he receives additional medical attention.

The state is resisting that effort, arguing in court filings that Stark has been to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics “many times over the past five years. He simply believes he should be there more often than he is. Unfortunately, medical resources are limited — and Stark cannot always get the attention that he believes he deserves. Rather, Stark receives the appropriate level of medical attention and has done so during the course of his incarceration.”

A trial date has yet to be scheduled.

Court records indicate Stark was jailed in 2016 on charges of eluding the police. In 2018, he was convicted of parole violations related to past convictions for criminal mischief, escape and eluding the police. In 2020, he was convicted of delivering methamphetamine and was sentenced to a prison term of no more than 10 years.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.