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Woman sues York City, police for officer-involved shooting
A woman is suing York City and its police department after she was shot by an officer during a pursuit in 2014.
On Dec. 19, 2014, Erika Eberhardinger, 24, of Dover, was shot while she was a front-seat passenger in a car driven by Matthew Foster, 24, of York Township. Foster had led police on a chase and tried to run over Officer Ben Smith, who shot at the car. The bullets struck Eberhardinger in her forearm and jaw.
The federal suit — filed Thursday with the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg — alleges the two responding officers, Smith and Officer Benjamin Praster, used excessive force and were negligent.
"The force used by Praster and Smith was excessive, unnecessary and objectively unreasonable, and proximately caused Eberhardinger’s personal injuries, pain, suffering and emotional distress," the suit reads. The suit states that Smith and Praster's actions infringed upon Eberhardinger's rights.
The suit also alleges that Smith shot the vehicle despite knowing that shooting it would not stop the car.
Additionally, the suit claims that York City and the police department did not train officers on proper firearm usage, among other things. It also claims the police failed to train and discipline the officers involved.
The background: According to the lawsuit, Eberhardinger and Foster had left Banana Max Bar and Grill on Eastern Boulevard in Springettsbury Township about 1:45 a.m. that day. They were headed to the York home of Mason Millen, another passenger in the vehicle at the time.
About 2 a.m., Praster began pursuing Foster after the driver failed to stop at a stop sign. Praster called in help, and Smith responded.
Praster chased Foster on Newberry Street, then westbound onto West Gay Avenue, going the wrong way on the one-way alley, police have said.
Smith began to travel down the alley heading east, according to the lawsuit. When Foster saw Smith's cruiser, he began to back up toward Praster, while Smith approached on foot.
Foster struck a telephone pole and then began to drive forward, past Smith, in an attempt to flee.
The lawsuit says that despite Smith not seeing Foster with a weapon, Smith drew his gun and fired four shots at the windshield of the car.
Eberhardinger was struck by two bullets but avoided life-threatening injuries, according to police.
Smith's actions were deemed justified by York County District Attorney Tom Kearney in September 2015. It was determined that Smith was in "imminent danger" when he fired at the car, according to York Dispatch records.
In August 2015, Foster was sentenced to three to six years in prison for the incident and was ordered to attend alcohol highway safety classes and undergo drug and alcohol evaluation, court records state.
Foster is named in Eberhardinger's lawsuit. The suit accuses him of negligence for the incident.
The suit does not disclose how much money is being sought.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.