Family wants $10 million in damages from Pearl, Flowood after police chase that killed innocent man

Attorney for Steven Pearson’s family wants Rankin County judge to approve amended complaint so lawsuit can move forward
Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 7:12 PM CDT
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RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - The family of a man killed during a police pursuit last August is suing two Rankin County cities, claiming their officers’ reckless behavior led to the man’s death.

The amended complaint, filed June 26, claims the pursuit violated state law, and the actions of those officers and the suspect they were chasing led to the death of 47-year-old Steven Pearson.

The chase, which began in Pearl, began when police attempted to stop Ryan Irwin for a tint violation.

Irwin sped off, officers chased him into Flowood and, after a second failed attempt to get him to stop, Flowood police joined in the pursuit.

Ray Gustavis, attorney for the Pearson family, claims that the chase lasted 26 minutes and argues those Flowood and Pearl officers could have terminated the pursuit at any time, but didn’t.

The chase ended when Irwin struck Pearson’s motorcycle, ejecting the man twenty feet, according to the complaint.

Pearson died shortly after the collision.

The suit claims officers with Pearl and Flowood violated state law by driving recklessly and carelessly through the area.

The suit also accuses those cities of failing to monitor negligent actions from its officers or properly investigate those accused of misconduct.

Gustavis alleges both cities’ police departments violated their own pursuit policies.

3 On Your Side has asked for those policies from both agencies since last year, but Flowood and Pearl have yet to release them publicly, which one public records expert calls a violation of state law.

A WLBT investigation in January found that some aspects of Pearl’s pursuit policy may not have been followed at all, judging by standards and rules adopted by Rankin County several years ago.

The Pearson family’s complaint also alleges information that WLBT had made public months ago: the officers did not have enough information to believe Irwin had committed a felony when they pursued him.

The wrongful death suit - which seeks $10 million in punitive damages - claims the recklessness of those officers and Irwin led to Pearson’s death.

Gustavis also argues city officials did not do enough to ensure that officers responsible for these chases were reprimanded, implying that chases for non-felony crimes happen often.

Pearson’s death came less than a month after a pursuit by Pearl police into Jackson led to the death of another man, U.S. postal worker Brad Pennington.

A 3 On Your Side analysis of police chases in the metro found nearly one in five chases over the last five years was initiated by a Pearl police officer.

A Rankin County circuit judge still has to approve the motion for this amended complaint for it to move forward.

Officials with Pearl and Flowood declined to comment on the matter, saying they do not comment on pending litigation.

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