Belle Plaine, KS — In August, Lionel Womack, 35, retired from his job as a Kansas City police detective to start his own business in private security. On his way back to Kansas from a conference in California, however, all those aspirations came to a screeching halt when he was targeted by Kiowa County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez who intentionally drove over him just days after he left the police department. Womack was shirtless and unarmed when Rodriguez plowed him down with his police pickup truck.
On August 15, 2020, Womack was headed back home from a conference in California when a Kansas Highway Patrol officer in western Kansas initiated a traffic stop over “an alleged traffic violation,” according to a lawsuit filed by Womack this month.
In an interview this week, Womack said that there were so many cop cars surrounding him and because he said he had committed no crime, the sheer number of cops made him scared, so he ran.
“When the first officer turned his lights on, I pulled over and complied ... exactly as you're supposed to. But when three additional vehicles pulled up quickly and started to surround my car, I freaked out. That's when I took off, it was a ‘fight or flight’ moment and I was going to live,” he said. “I felt like I was in danger. This was out in the country, late at night, and it was dark. So I ran for my life. That's what you see in the dashcam video. I'm running in an open field, and I'm scared.”
As the dashcam video shows, Rodriguez is pursuing Womack as he runs shirtless through the field in what he says was a moment of "flight" because being surrounded by cops on a dark road scared him. When cops are scared of being surrounded by other cops, you know there is a problem in American policing.
After Womack took off on foot, his fears of cops harming him came to fruition. As Womack runs, Rodriguez closes in on him. Despite having no justification for doing so, Rodriguez then plows his truck into Womack and intentionally rolls over him. It is nothing short of attempted murder.
Womack's body comes rolling out from under the truck's tire, legs and arms flailing as the cops yell at him to "lie down! lie down!"
The scene was so shocking that another deputy who witnessed Rodriguez mow down Womack actually yelled out an expletive because of what he was seeing.
“The dashcam video is disturbing,” Womack's attorney Michael Kuckelman said. “It is impossible to watch a video of a deputy driving his truck over Mr. Womack without feeling sick. There was nowhere for Mr. Womack to go. It was an open field, and he was trapped, yet the deputy drove his truck over him anyway.”
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According to the AP, Womack alleges in his lawsuit that he sustained serious injuries to his back, pelvis and thigh as well as to his right knee, ankle and foot.
Despite the video which showed Rodriguez senselessly attempt to murder a former police detective, he was never charged or even disciplined and remains on full duty. The department has refused to issue a statement on how or why Rodriguez did what he did and why they haven't charged him.
Womack — who remains in jail after this incident on charges of evading police — comes from a long line of law enforcement family members. His wife and mother are cops, he stepfather retired as a cop, and two aunts are dispatchers.
“I am a police officer as well, and I feel like especially right now it is a really difficult time to be a police officer. We don't always get the support, I guess, that would be helpful in this occupation," his wife, Zee Womack said. “And this makes it a lot more difficult to be an officer.”
An officer who is able to make decisions like that should not have a badge, she said.
“To me it showed a blatant disregard for human life,” she said.
Indeed. It was arguably not just disregard for human life but an active attempt to end it.
Amazingly enough, according to the AP, Lionel Womack said he believes in the “blue brotherhood” and that most police officers are good.
Womack thinks that Rodriguez was a "rogue officer" despite the fact that no one in Rodriguez' department has attempted to hold the officer accountable for attempted murder — making them all bad cops.
“But we have to hold law enforcement accountable when they cross the line,” he said “These rogue law enforcement officers give a bad name to the good officers, and we have to stop them. I never imagined that I would someday be the victim of excessive force by a fellow law enforcement officer. He could have easily killed me.”