Deputy Who Ran Over Black Man Is Working at State Prison While Investigation Continues

A Kansas deputy who was seen on dashcam footage running over a Black man now works at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility despite being under criminal investigation, according to the injured man's attorney.

Lionel Womack, a former police detective from Kansas City, filed an excessive force lawsuit against Kiowa County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez, accusing him of purposefully running him over in August of 2020 while he was running shirtless across a field, the Associated Press reported.

Womack, who fled from a traffic stop in what he described as a "fight or flight" moment after several police vehicles began surrounding his car, said the incident seriously injured his back and pelvis, as well as his right thigh, knee and foot. Rodriguez claimed in a response to the lawsuit that he didn't intentionally hit Womack, AP reported.

Michael Kuckelman, Womack's attorney, sent a letter Tuesday to Kansas Secretary of Corrections Jefferey Zmuda and Warden Dan Schnurr saying that he was "shocked" that Rodriguez was employed as master sergeant at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Lionel Womack
A Kansas sheriff’s deputy who was caught on dashcam video running over Lionel Womack, who was fleeing shirtless across a field, is now working at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility while under criminal investigation, according Womack's attorney, Michael Kuckelman. Above, Womack is seen at home in Kansas City, Kansas, on March of 2020. Lionel Womack via AP

Kuckelman encouraged them to discuss the ongoing criminal investigations with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

William Townsley, who represents the deputy, told AP in an email Wednesday that Kuckelman's letter, which was copied to the press, was perhaps an effort to sway opinion and said it's intended to "harangue" Rodriguez. He added that it also seems to be an effort to influence state officials, saying they "anticipate that the Secretary and Warden will not be intimidated by his bluster."

A spokesman for the state Department of Corrections said in an email that they are trying to determine the department's position on this and will follow up "at a more appropriate time."

Rodriguez testified in his deposition that he was asked by the Department of Corrections to work at the Hutchinson prison, despite the fact that he remains under criminal investigation and is on administrative suspension from the Kiowa County Sheriff's Office, according to Kuckelman's letter. He testified that the decision to allow him to work at the prison was made by Zmuda and Schnurr.

Kuckelman in his letter urged them to review the videos of Rodriguez running down Womack, and to consider whether it's appropriate to have him responsible for supervising prisoners and other prison guards.

"Master Sergeant Rodriguez has been employed by at least 15 different law enforcement agencies and multiple jails/prisons," Kuckelman wrote. "It is time to weed Master Sergeant out of all forms of law enforcement and cease covering or overlooking his misconduct as a law enforcement officer."

But Townsley countered that Rodriguez has worked for the Department of Corrections for nearly 13 years, while also working part time for other law enforcement entities. He said there is nothing new or nefarious about this practice in law enforcement, particularly given the current shortage of corrections officers across the state.

Rodriguez has not been disciplined or terminated by any previous employer, he said.