South Florida Sun-Sentinel
No charges will be filed against a Boynton Beach police officer after he followed a teenage dirt-bike rider, who crashed and died, the Florida Highway Patrol said on Thursday.
The FHP announced it completed a traffic homicide investigation into the Dec. 26, 2021, crash where Stanley “SJ” Dale Davis III died while fleeing Boynton Beach Police Officer Mark Sohn on Federal Highway.
The Boynton Beach Police Department issued a statement Thursday morning that said FHP’s investigation found the teen was driving about 85 mph on a 2022 Honda CRF450R-S dirt bike at the time of the crash and that the officer’s car did not make contact with the bike. The traffic homicide investigation report said Sohn was driving between 79 and 80 mph.
The speed limit in the area of the crash was 35 mph, the FHP investigation says.
No charges will be filed, FHP’s investigation says, “because the at-fault person expired as a result of the crash.”
The statement released by the police department Thursday said FHP’s investigation found that Davis was “unlawfully fleeing an attempted traffic stop initiated by a Boynton Beach police officer.”
A report from the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office says the officer saw Davis riding the dirt bike north on Federal Highway south of Boynton Beach Road and said over radio that he was in pursuit.
The report does not identify the officer as Sohn but says the officer later called the pursuit off after Davis ran the red light at Federal Highway and Boynton Beach Road. Three minutes after the officer said he saw Davis riding the dirt bike on Federal Highway, the officer said over radio the teen had crashed, the report says.
Outgoing Boynton Beach Mayor Steven Grant wants a small park in the Heart of Boynton neighborhood to be named after Stanley “SJ” Davis III despite his death occurring while riding a dirt bike illegally.
The police department’s vehicular pursuit and apprehension policy says officers can pursue only if there is reasonable belief a forcible felony was committed, which includes murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, carjacking, home invasion robbery, robbery, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault and battery and discharging of a destructive device or bomb.
The policy also says an officer’s decision to pursue must be based on “the pursuing officer’s conclusion that the immediate danger to the officer and the public created by the pursuit is less than the immediate or potential danger to the public should the suspect remain at large.”
Sohn has been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 26, police department records say.
The police department will now start an Internal Affairs investigation to determine whether Sohn violated any policies. No status updates will be given during the investigation, the department’s statement says.
Charges could still be filed, pending the outcome of the Internal Affairs investigation. The outcome could lead to disciplinary actions or charges, according to the department’s statement.
There will be a meeting Thursday night from 6 to 8 p.m. at the police department, listed as “the first in a series of conversations to strengthen community connections.” The “community conversation” will center on Internal Affairs and community policing efforts.
Sohn has a history of pursuit policy violations in his 20 years at the police department, Internal Affairs records show. He had been disciplined three times before for violating that policy, including a one-day without pay suspension for a 2012 pursuit that ended with the death of 38-year-old Cyrus Deal.
FHP’s traffic homicide investigation into the crash that killed Deal had the same conclusion as Davis’: “no charges will be filed because the at fault person expired as a result of the crash.”
There was no sign that Deal committed a forcible felony or any crime, and the Internal Affairs investigation found, “the decision to continue the pursuit created more of a dangerous situation to the public than if the suspect remained at large.”
Another pursuit Sohn was involved in in February 2016 ended with the death of 5-year-old Jayden Readon, who was walking to a park when Lex Eugene, the driver who Sohn was pursuing, lost control as he turned onto Summit Road, swerved onto the sidewalk and fatally hit Readon.
Sohn was also suspended for a week in 2004 for participating in a pursuit of a stolen car. He allegedly violated 12 different department policies in that pursuit, Internal Affairs records say.
And in July 2010, Sohn was again disciplined for violating the pursuit policy, though the details are unknown because the department no longer has the records.
Attorney Ben Crump is representing Davis’ family in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city.
This is a developing story, so check back for updates. Click here to have breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox.