Civil suit against city, officer moves forward

The city is defending itself and one of its police officers in a civil case brought by a man who led police on a pursuit in 2016.

Jury selection got underway this week in Indio in a civil case against the city of Palm Springs and one of its police officers filed by the suspect in a high-speed chase dating back nearly five years.

Russell Manning, also known as Russell Abner in court documents, is suing both the city and officer Matt Olson after Manning suffered severe injuries in October 2016 when the motorcycle he was operating struck a curb and crashed in the 300 block of Avenida Cerca. Police said the crash followed a chase that began on Rosa Parks Road following reports that Manning was operating the motorcycle recklessly.

Manning was charged with multiple felonies following his arrest, including evading arrest. The 32-year-old Palm Springs resident ultimately pleaded guilty, court documents show, and was given three years’ probation.

In a lawsuit filed in August 2017 in Riverside County Superior Court, Manning’s lawyers claim he was not being chased, and was simply riding his motorcycle on Avenida Circa when he was struck by the patrol vehicle driven by Olson “without sirens, without any lights, and not on any emergency call or any pursuit.”

Manning, through his attorneys, claimed the officer’s actions were negligent. His attorneys also claimed the city was negligent for providing the vehicle Olson was driving, hiring Olson, and training him. Riverside County and the Palm Springs Police Department originally were named in the case but were later dropped from the suit.

After years of court motions filed by both sides, the work to seat a jury in the case finally began Tuesday. It is not known when opening statements will be made or if the case will be settled before the trial begins.

Attorneys are not seeking a specific dollar figure from the city, but filed the case as an unlimited civil case, meaning they hope to receive more than $25,000. They claim Manning has suffered lost income as well as medical expenses since the accident, and stands to incur additional expenses as he deals with his injuries.

Manning’s name may sound familiar to those who have seen the case come up for discussion in Palm Springs City Council executive sessions, including a meeting Wednesday afternoon. That’s because another man with the same name was involved in one of the more bizarre incidents in Palm Springs history.

That Russell Manning was 68 when he was convicted on fraud charges in 2010. He and three other Bay Area men were found to have conspired to empty the bank account and sell the home of Palm Springs art collector Cliff Lambert, who was reported missing in 2009. Those four men and two others eventually were charged with Lambert’s murder, but the murder charge was dropped against Manning in exchange for pleading guilty to fraud. He served five years in prison.

The men eventually convicted of murdering Lambert were granted a retrial last year following allegations that the judge who presided over their case was biased against one of the defendants.


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