WINDSOR LOCKS —
The family of 15-year-old Henry Dang, who was killed when off-duty police officer Michael Koistinen struck him with his car, has filed notice that it intends to sue the town of Windsor Locks; and has sued the Koistinen family and the bar where the officer was drinking shortly before the crash.
The two notices of intent to sue the town name Police Chief John Suchocki as well as the three officers who initially responded to the Oct. 29 crash. Koistinen was traveling on Spring Street when his car struck Dang, who was riding his bicycle home just before midnight. A warrant for Koistinen’s arrest indicates he spent hours drinking that day, which ended with a couple of shots of tequila at the Suffield Tavern.
Michael Koistinen has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and was fired last month by the police commission. His father, Windsor Locks Sgt. Robert Koistinen, was arrested last week on charges of hindering prosecution and faces his first court date today. He is on paid administrative leave. His salary is more than $73,000.
The lawsuits against the Koistinens and the bar were expected, but Hartford attorney James Bartolini had said after Michael Koistinen’s first criminal court appearance that he wasn’t sure if the Dangs would be able to sue the town.
Bartolini said Monday he filed two notices against the town — the first on behalf of Henry Dang’s estate claiming that the department’s negligence will make it difficult for the estate to prove the civil case against Michael Koistinen; and the second notice on behalf of the Dang family for emotional distress.
The notices against the town claim that Suchocki, Robert Koistinen, who was the duty sergeant the night of the crash, and officers Paul Sherakow and Robert Lacasse “failed to properly and adequately conduct a field sobriety test” upon Michael Koistinen and also “failed to seek a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test” to determine if he had been drinking before the crash.
They also raise the issue that police may have contaminated the crime scene by allowing both First Selectmen Steve Wawruck and police commission Chairman Neal Cunningham to walk unfettered around the scene.
In the arrest warrant for Robert Koistinen, state police detectives said allowing two civilians to inspect the crime scene without police escorts “compromised the integrity of the investigation and brings into question the evidence chain of custody.”
Bartolini said lawsuits have been filed against the Koistinen family and Jacek Bucior, the owner of the Suffield Tavern.
The lawsuit is against the entire family because the Mazda that Michael Koistinen was driving that night was owned by his parents, Bartolini said.
The lawsuit alleges that Michael Koistinen caused the death by driving at an unreasonable rate of speed, operating it under the influence of alcohol, failed to yield the right of way to a bicyclist, and failed to keep a proper lane.
State police estimate Michael Koistinen was traveling more than 70 mph in a 35 mph zone when the crash occurred.
The lawsuit alleges that the bar owners sold “a visibly intoxicated” Michael Koistinen liquor and then failed to prevent him from getting in his car and driving away.
State police have obtained video from security cameras in the bar showing Michael Koistinen drinking two shots and at least one mixed drink in about a half-hour. State police have said the video shows Michael Koistinen walking in an unsteady manner out of view of the camera and likely out of the bar to his car.