• Widower of woman killed during police pursuit sues York County, Rock Hill, police department

    By: Greg Suskin

    Updated:

    ROCK HILL, S.C. - The widower of retired teacher Virginia Bartell is suing York County, Rock Hill, and the Rock Hill Police Department for her death.

    Bartell was killed in 2016 when a man officers were pursuing crashed into her on busy Heckle Boulevard in 2016.

    [Past coverage: Man charged in woman's death while fleeing police apologizes[

    [Past coverage: Man gets 28 years in chase that ended in fatal crash in Rock Hill]

    The 22-page lawsuit is so new that the Rock Hill Police Department and city hall haven’t received it.

    Bartell’s widower claims police were reckless, chasing a man who wasn't a significant threat. 

    Police told Channel 9 that they were not chasing him during the fatal three-car crash in September 2016.

    Police said undercover officers spotted Stevie McClinton's car and believed he was selling guns and drugs out of it.

    When he saw police, he took off.

    Moments later, on Heckle Boulevard, a woman was seriously hurt and 72-year-old Bartell was killed.

    The new lawsuit blames police for her death.

    Bartell’s attorney, Jerry Wigger, of Charleston, told Channel 9 this is a lesson for law enforcement.

    "We just hope that this helps raise their awareness that they shouldn't put people in a situation where their lives are in jeopardy over what amounts to not a very serious criminal situation,” Wigger said.


    (Virginia Bartell)

    The lawsuit claims that police knew McClinton would run when spotted, but that he did not pose an immediate threat, the pursing officer operated his vehicle in a grossly negligent and reckless manner and failed to follow proper police protocol. It also accuses the police department of failing to terminate the high-speed pursuit when it became apparent the pursuit created an unreasonable risk of harm."


    (Stevie McClinton)

    At the time, Rock Hill police told Channel 9 they did not chase McClinton, but that he sped off when he saw officers.

    "We have a direct eyewitness and we also have some tapes that we think will counter that argument,” Wigger said.

    After the crash, police found an assault rifle, a stolen pistol and cocaine in McClinton's car.

    Wigger, who specializes in cases like these, said he's sued many police agencies.

    Rock Hill police and city leaders said they will likely have a statement once they have been served with the lawsuit.

    Last year, a judge sentenced McClinton to 28 years in prison for Bartell’s death.

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