Former KCPD officer charged in crash that killed Shawnee Mission South student

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Prosecutors say the driver who set off a multi-vehicle crash near Arrowhead Stadium and killed a Shawnee Mission South senior is a former KCPD officer who now faces involuntary manslaughter among other charges.

Terrell E. Watkins, 34, is charged in the crash that claimed the life of 17-year-old Chandan Rajanna on October 21, 2018.

Court documents say Watkins was driving a blue Ford van that Sunday afternoon north on I-435 before a Chiefs game when he hit a car stopped in traffic near Stadium Drive, setting off a chain reaction that pushed the SUV Rajanna was in into the back of another SUV.

Rajanna died at the scene, and two other passengers were hospitalized with serious injuries.

Watkins was assigned to the Police Athletic League, and the van was his work vehicle. He was working off-duty that night for game security when witnesses told investigators they had seen him speeding and making numerous lane changes in the area of Bannister before losing sight of him.

Those witnesses say they saw the van he was driving involved in the crash when they got near Stadium Drive.

He was scheduled to start working inside Arrowhead Stadium at 4 p.m., and radioed in the crash to police dispatch at 4:05 p.m. Data from the van revealed he was driving 76 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone less than a second before the crash, and hit the first vehicle at 65 miles per hour.

Furthermore, investigators say Watkins' cell phone data showed he was actively using it in the moments that led up to the crash. He completed a 10-minute call, and sent a text message less than a minute before the crash.

Watkins was hospitalized and didn't give investigators a statement in the hospital. KCPD provided this statement:

"The charges filed today against a former Kansas City Missouri Police Department officer represent a painstakingly thorough investigation into the tragic crash last October that took the life of a 17-year-old young man and injured his family members. 

The former officer was off duty at the time of the crash. He resigned from the department on June 20, 2019, after approximately seven years of service. Since the time of the crash, he had been on an administrative assignment until his resignation. 

The KCPD Accident Investigation Unit investigated the crash with the assistance of the Missouri Highway Patrol."

Less than a month after the crash, Rajanna's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Watkins, the next court dates are in 2020.

Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker gave this statement in a news release about the criminal charges against Watkins: "We mourn with the family and the community for the loss of our teenage victim and his promising future, cut short."

In all, Watkins faces involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault, and careless and imprudent driving. He's not in custody but is due to be arraigned on August 7.

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