Father searches for answers after fatal crash kills son

A local father is searching for answers after a fatal crash killed his son.

Rev. John Dawkins III has had an empty feeling in his heart for almost a year now. That's when he lost his 39- year-old son John in a violent car crash.

"Whenever he was around he was the life of the party," Rev. Dawkins told FOX 29. "A charismatic kind of guy. He loved life. Loved people. Loved his family."

Rev. Dawkins says 800 people attended his son's funeral to celebrate his life, but there's something troubling Rev. Dawkins about that crash and it's left him with a lot of unanswered questions.

"From my perspective, from my family's perspective, The truth has not come out," he said.

The high speed crash was caught on video surveillance cameras as the car driven by John Dawkins IV went airborne.

"He loses control driving at a high rate of speed. He hits several fixed objects, tree, couple poles and eventually a property," Captain David Kelly, of the Police Accident Investigation District, told FOX 29

The March 9,2016 crash was so violent, Dawkins' 2014 Infiniti exploded into flames; trapping him inside. Within minutes, Dawkins was dead. His body burned beyond recognition. The car had to be towed to the medical examiners office so experts could remove the body and evidence from the crash.

"While I believe he's in a better place. I sure wish he was still here," Rev. Dawkins said..

Fast forward to September and a lawsuit filed by Rev. Dawkins and his wife. They claim their son was deprived of his civil rights and the victim of a wrongful death caused by a police pursuit involving two officers from the Philadelphia Housing Authority police.The PHA refused to comment for this story citing the lawsuit. 

"We believe it was the Philadelphia Housing Authority Police," Captain Kelly told FOX 29. 

Sgt Abdul Evans, who asked us not to show his face, was the supervising officer for PHA police the night of the fatal crash. He served 21 years with PHA police and received numerous commendations. He says he spoke to the two officers that night after the crash.  He was called to the accident scene minutes after Dawkins was pronounced dead and confronted with information alleging two of his officers were pursuing Dawkins seconds before the fatal crash.

"They chased the car, seen the car, chased the car viciously doing 85, up to 85 miles per hour. No radio call, no call to anybody," Sgt. Evans told FOX 29.

Sgt. Evans, who passed away recently, told FOX 29 last December he was across town at the time of the crash.

"If they had went across the air, said they were in pursuit of someone, then it would have been a different story," Sgt. Evans explained."It would have been my decision to tell them to either keep going or cut it off, which I would have told them."

The lawsuit filed by Dawkins parents also alleges those PHA officers improperly pursued Dawkins against PHA pursuit guidelines and without probable cause and justification. The suit also claims the officers failed to notify their dispatcher or superiors they were engaging in a vehicle pursuit. Philadelphia police refused to pursue Dawkins moments earlier after they too saw him speeding on nearby Broad Street.

"For it to go on for almost a year now and still we're grasping and trying to find answers. That's troubling," Rev. Dawkins said.

The lawsuit claims the two PHA officers saw the crash and observed Dawkins' car burst into flames with Dawkins still inside. It also alleges the officers "fled the scene of the accident without notifying any emergency or rescue service or police entity." It claims the two officers also left without rendering any assistance to Dawkins.

"So far we don't know if they left the scene. It looks like they broke off their pursuit before the gentleman got in the crash and turned off," Captain Kelly said.

"They should have contacted the medics at least," Sgt. Evans contended."They should not have been doing anything cause they shouldn't have been chasing nobody."

"At the end of the day, those who should be held accountable should be," Rev. Dawkins said.

He hopes the lawsuit will at least get him some of the answers he so desperately wants.

"God help me and all who else can help me to find the truth," Rev. Dawkins added.

FOX 29 has now obtained a copy of the AID police report indicating the victim, had he lived, could have been charged with DUI and multiple motor vehicle violations, including fleeing police. The report also says he could have faced a criminal charge of reckless endangerment.

The PHA refused comment on this story citing the ongoing lawsuit. An attorney hired by the two former PHA officers allegedly involved in the chase did not return our phone calls or respond to an email seeking comment.   

 

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