Knoxville cop was speeding at more than 80 mph without lights and siren when he killed a driver

The corner of Cheshire Drive and Kingston Pike, where 27-year-old Mauricio Luna died after being hit by Knoxville police officer Cody Klingmann, who was speeding to a call of a burglary in progress early on Aug. 13, 2021.

A Knoxville police officer was speeding at more than 80 mph without lights or siren activated when he struck a car on Kingston Pike, killing the 27-year-old driver, Knox News has learned.

The family of Mauricio Luna, who died in the crash, met with District Attorney Charme Allen on Thursday afternoon and reviewed dash camera footage of the wreck they say shows the officer failed to turn on his lights and siren. Earlier this week, Knox News reported Allen will not prosecute Officer Cody Klingmann for the wreck. He remains on active duty.

Tennessee law and Knoxville Police Department policy each require officers to activate both lights and siren if they exceed the speed limit during an emergency call for service.

Luna's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit Friday.

Klingmann was responding to a call about a burglary at a Kingston Pike business at about 3 a.m. Aug. 13 when he struck Luna, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Luna was turning left in his Honda Accord from Cheshire Drive onto Kingston Pike when Klingmann's cruiser, a 2016 Dodge Charger, hit him in the center of the driver's side of the car, according to a preliminary report.

“There reality is (Klingmann) is going so far above the speed limit that (Luna) never would have seen him,” Attorney T. Scott Jones said. “You lose right of way at that point. Any action by Mr. Luna was reasonable in the circumstances.

“Poor Mr. Luna and his Honda Accord never had a chance. He just never had a chance.”

A roadside memorial at the intersection of Cheshire Drive and Kingston Pike marks the spot where 27-year-old Mauricio Luna was killed after his car was struck by a Knoxville police officer who was speeding at more than 80 mph without emergency lights and siren activated.

The crash is under investigation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and KPD's internal affairs unit is also investigating, Knoxville police spokesperson Scott Erland told Knox News last week. Police have declined to answer questions about Klingmann's speed or whether he had activated lights and siren, citing the investigation.

Klingmann was not wearing a seatbelt when he wrecked but suffered only minor injuries, according to a Tennessee Highway Patrol report.

Erland said Friday all KPD officers receive extensive instruction on state law and department policies.

"Additionally, officers receive 116 hours of driving training in the recruit academy and at least two hours during yearly in-service," he said in a statement to Knox News.

"The internal investigation is still ongoing and the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken upon the completion of that investigation," he continued. "Officer Klingmann was reassigned from patrol immediately following the crash and will remain reassigned until the investigation reaches a conclusion."

The lawsuit requests $3 million in damages.

Stock image of KPD Knoxville Police Squad Car Cruiser Dodge Charger

In a similar case in 2004, Knoxville police officer Donald McClendon was responding to a call with his lights on and siren off when he collided with a woman who was on her way to church with her two young nephews on a Sunday morning.

Jennie Bell Watts, 58, died in the crash and McClendon was charged with reckless homicide and three counts of aggravated assault. His policing powers were stripped, and he eventually struck a no-contest plea deal with prosecutors in 2004 to settle the case, according to Knox News archives.

McClendon was injured in the wreck and was granted medical retirement.

Tyler Whetstone is a Knox News politics reporter focusing on Knoxville and Knox County.
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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knoxville cop who killed driver was speeding without lights or sirens