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Apology sought in crash death

Sheriff’s department not criminally liable

– The family of Elmo Portee wants an apology from the Allen County Sheriff’s Department after an officer crashed into a van driven by Portee last March, killing him.

Last month, an Allen Superior Court grand jury declined to charge the officer, Mark Sickafoose, criminally.

But civil cases are pending, and the sheriff’s department declined to comment.

Lucille Portee, 27-year-old Elmo Portee’s mother, said an apology could help the family heal.

Elmo Portee was driving a minivan at Diebold and Dupont roads on March 19. Having a green light, Portee proceeded through the intersection and was struck by a patrol car driven by Sickafoose, a 15-year veteran of the department.

The sheriff’s officer was on his way, with his lights and sirens on, to a personal injury accident and had gone through the red light at the intersection.

Meeting on Dec. 20 and 21 to investigate the crash, the grand jury did not find Sickafoose criminally responsible for the crash, according to special prosecutor Daniel Sigler.

“There was not an issue of whether this was intentional or not,” Sigler said. “The question was did he exceed his response to the point where it was reckless. The grand jury determined he did not. So they declined to charge.”

For Lucille Portee, the news of the grand jury’s decision was painful.

“I’m not happy at all, whatsoever,” she said. “When I got the news, I was flabbergasted and just sickened by it. It was hurtful.

“To know that six citizens felt that it’s OK for anyone, not just the mere fact that he’s an officer of the law, that to me is even worse because you enforce the law every day and you blatantly disregard it. I have a problem with that,” she said.

Sigler praised the work of the grand jury, which he asked for a few months after being appointed as a special prosecutor.

“I think the grand jury made the correct call given what the evidence is,” he said.

But he stressed that Elmo Portee was not at fault.

“He was a victim and shouldn’t have died that day. The grand jury just found there was no criminal conduct in his death,” he said.

With four children left behind, the Portee family is taking civil action on behalf of the estate, Lucille Portee said.

And she is still looking for some statement from the sheriff’s department.

“I think our whole family deserves that apology, if nothing else. They can’t bring my son back, the father back for his children. But we need to heal,” she said. “We need to heal. And that would be a help.”

rgreen@jg.net

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