Kansas City
Over $1 Billion in Verdicts and Recoveries
Officer Who Was Shot Sues Maker of Police Radios
JOE LAMBE Staff Writer
Kansas City Star

Last year a Kansas City police officer tried to radio for help again and again, but got only static. Then a drug suspect shot him in the leg, according to the officer's lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Robert Blehm and his wife, sued Ericsson Inc., which made the radio system, and SFA Inc., a former city consultant on the system. Officials with both companies declined to comment about the lawsuit that the Blehms filed in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit came one day after city and police officials announced that they would delay making a decision to file their own lawsuit against Ericsson. Officers and fire fighters have repeatedly complained about problems with the radio system.

Gary C. Robb, the Blehms' attorney, said the continual delays in solving two years of difficulties with the $18 million system put more people at risk.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," he said. "It is simply inexcusable that this defective radio system endangers the lives and safety or our police officers and firefighters."

The Blehm's lawsuit is also against David Humphrey, who was convicted of shooting Blehm and another officer Sept. 18, 1996. He is awaiting a sentence of up to life in prison.

The officers chased Humphrey after a suspected drug deal. Blehm states in the lawsuit that he first repeatedly pressed a radio button to summon officers who were less than one minute away.

Humphrey would have surrendered under a show of force, the lawsuit contends, but instead: "The radio crackled and hummed, letting both the plaintiff and the suspect know that the radio was out of order."

The lawsuit contends that signal towers are improperly placed or insufficient in number, causing weak signals or dead zones where radios do not work. It seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages. The other officer, Derek McCollum was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

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