A panic button is only as good as the people who respond to it, a lawsuit says.
The wife of Kay Porter Ricks, a maintenance worker, said the device was a failure in the case of her husband, who was kidnapped by a father and son at the Utah Transit Authority train station where he worked and later killed by the duo, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Lorie Ricks says her husband, 63, hit the “panic button” the day Flint Wayne Harrison, 51, and his 23-year-old son, Dereck James “DJ” Harrison, approached him that evening in May 2016. But no one responded to the distress call, the suit said, reported the Tribune.
The Harrisons were on the run after restraining and beating a woman and her four teenage daughters outside Salt Lake City, the Associated Press reported.
Ricks ended up in their sights at UTA's Ballpark station because Flint Harrison wanted his car, his son told authorities. Ricks tried to flee, but Flint restrained him and the men put him into the cab of his UTA truck, authorities said, KSL reported. They took Ricks from the light-rail station and to Wyoming, where Flint had been living, the AP said.
DJ Harrison said he thought they were going to let Ricks go when they were in a rural area outside Kemmerer, Wyoming, KSL reported. But after they took him out of the truck, Harrison said his father cut Ricks’ throat, then smashed his head in with a metal bar and dumped his body, the news station reported.
DJ and his father were arrested in Wyoming after Flint Harrison surrendered, ending a dayslong manhunt in the woods, the AP reported.
Before Ricks’ kidnapping and murder, employees doing work similar to Ricks’ faced threats and assaults by “vagrants and other individuals,” the lawsuit said. The company did little to address employees’ concerns, and only enabled a “panic button” on UTA communication devices, the suit said, reported the Tribune.
When Ricks hit the panic button, “sounds of commotion” were transmitted on the radio, and his voice sounded “hurried and higher pitched,” the suit said.
DJ Harrison was sentenced last May to life in prison, after pleading guilty to murder and other offenses. He’d said in a statement read by his attorney that he “wishes he had more control at that time,” the AP reported.
Flint Harrison killed himself in jail in July 2016, just months after the kidnapping, KSL reported.
UTA officials told the Tribune on Tuesday that they haven’t received the lawsuit.