Cop in fatal crash resigns

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KPD Officer Cody Klingmann

A Knoxville Police Department officer who was involved in a crash that killed a man resigned after learning the results of a probe conducted by the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU), officials said Wednesday.

KPD Officer Cody Klingmann was speeding down Kingston Pike at nearly 100 mph without using his emergency lights or sirens as required by law when he T-boned a car driven by 28-year-old Mauricio Luna just after 3 a.m. on August 13, 2021, according to official accounts. 

Luna was killed in the crash. Klingmann was reassigned from patrol duties immediately following the wreck and had a pre-disciplinary hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“Klingmann was provided with the IAU case summary and findings prior to the scheduled pre-disciplinary hearing, which is standard practice,” KPD spokesperson Scott Erland explained. 

Before the hearing began, however, Klingmann opted to resign, he said. 

“I am leaving to pursue other opportunities that have become available,” wrote Klingmann in his resignation letter to Acting Chief Mark Fortner. “I appreciate my time with the Knoxville Police Department and have the utmost respect for this Department and my fellow officers.”

When asked if KPD officials would be contacting the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission to have Klingmann’s certification revoked, Erland replied: “We are required to notify POST of status changes for our officers, to include separations for any reasons.”

Luna’s mother has filed a $3 million lawsuit against Klingmann and the City of Knoxville. The lawsuit claims that Klingmann was negligent because he was speeding, because he failed to turn on his emergency equipment as required by law, and because he failed to exercise due care or to keep his vehicle under control.

Neither of the drivers were intoxicated at the time of the crash, officials said.

Mauricio Luna

In March, prosecutors working under Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen chose not to file criminal charges against Klingmann.  

The decision was explained in a memo that was written by Assistant District Attorney Leland Price, a veteran prosecutor who has handled numerous high-profile cases in Knox County during the terms of both DA Allen and her predecessor, Randy Nichols. 

According to Price’s summary of the case, Klingmann was one of three KPD officers who responded to a possible burglary in progress at the S & S Cafeteria, 4808 Kingston Pike. The officers — Klingmann, Adam Rosenbaum, and Jasmine Reed — were over three miles away in the area around West Town Mall. 

The officers, each of whom was behind the wheel of their own cruiser, drove eastbound on Kingston Pike without turning on their emergency lights or sirens, Price said. Reed was driving the lead vehicle, Klingmann was second, and Rosenbaum was bringing up the rear.

According to Price:

“Cheshire (Drive) forms an intersection with Kingston Pike. There is no traffic signal at this intersection. Cars on Cheshire have a stop sign and must yield to oncoming traffic on Kingston Pike before either making a left or right on Kingston Pike. Kingston Pike is illuminated by streetlights in this area, including one at its intersection with Cheshire. The posted speed limit on Kingston Pike in this area is 45 miles per hour. Heading east-bound, Kingston Pike makes a slight rise just prior to its t-intersection with Cheshire Drive.

“Officer Reed’s patrol car camera shows that Luna was sitting in his 2015 Honda Accord at the intersection waiting to make a left turn onto Kingston Pike as Reed passed in front of him at 3:08 a.m. Klingmann was approximately 100 yards behind Reed in his 2016 Dodge Charger patrol car, now traveling in the left or inner lane of the four-lane highway…. Klingmann’s emergency equipment was not activated as he approached Cheshire. 

“According to data obtained from the Dodge, Klingmann was traveling 90 miles per hour .6 seconds before the crash, slowing to 81miles per hour prior to impact. As Klingmann’s Dodge came up the slight rise on Kingston Pike just prior to its intersection with Cheshire, Luna’s Honda attempted to make a left turn onto Kingston, crossing the right or outer lane of east-bound Kingston Pike and into the path of the Dodge in the inner lane. The Dodge patrol car struck the Honda directly on the driver’s side in a T-Bone type collision. The Dodge continued east rotating counterclockwise coming to an uncontrolled final rest facing north in the eastbound lanes. The Honda also rotated counterclockwise, coming to an uncontrolled final rest partially off the north side of the westbound lanes of Kingston Pike. The crash occurred at approximately 3:08 a.m.”

Price then went on to argue that, in order to support a homicide charge, the evidence had to show that Luna’s death was caused by Klingmann’s actions.

“Officer Klingmann did create a risk by speeding (90 miles per hour in a 45 miles per hour zone),” Price said. “Because he did not activate his emergency equipment, Klingmann was not excused from following normal traffic regulations. However, Klingmann’s excessive speed did not create a risk of such a nature and degree that injury or death was likely and foreseeable under the circumstances. Traffic was virtually non-existent at 3:08 a.m., as shown in his patrol car video. He was also following behind another patrol car by about 100 yards. Klingmann could have reasonably expected Reed’s patrol car in front of him to first encounter any traffic or hazards. Finally, although he did not have his emergency equipment activated, Klingmann did have his headlights activated while traveling in the left or inner lane of a four-lane well-lit highway. 

“It took the intervening actions of Luna when he failed to yield and pulled out directly in Klingmann’s path to create the likely and foreseeable risk of death. Prior to Luna’s failure to yield, Luna’s death was not likely or foreseeable. Tragically, the risk of death required the intervening factor of Luna’s failure to yield, pulling out unexpectedly in the path of Klingmann. Thus, the proof simply does not establish that Klingmann was the proximate cause of Luna’s death.”

Leland Price

Price concluded: “The death of Mr. Luna on August 13, 2021 was tragic. However, when the facts and circumstances of this fatal crash are analyzed in light of applicable criminal law, it is clear that criminal charges against Officer Klingmann for Luna’s death cannot be supported. In order to sustain charges, proof would have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Luna’s death was the natural and probable consequences of Klingmann’s actions. Under the circumstances, with Luna’s actions in failing to yield playing such a pivotal and intervening role, the proof does not support that conclusion.”

The evidence collected during the investigation included videos that were recorded by the officers’ personal and vehicle equipment, witness statements, medical records, and technical reports. 

None of the supporting evidence — which is in the possession of KPD and THP — has been made public yet.

“The IAU case has not been officially closed, but it is nearing that point and the file will be made available for public release at that time,” Erland said Wednesday.   

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on June 9, 2022.