WICHITA — Legal documents in a Wichita lawsuit support claims that a dealership owned by Brandon Steven was complicit in providing a Tahoe to a drug dealer who delivered suspected prostitutes to a casino and ran down a cop.
Law enforcement officers who were interviewed for the civil case provide new details about the extent of Justin Terrazas' criminal activity and his alleged connections to Eddy’s Chevrolet Cadillac. A deposition and other documents provide evidence that Terrazas used an SUV owned by the dealership with the knowledge of senior managers there for seven weeks before longtime police officer Brian Arterburn suffered catastrophic injuries in a high-speed chase in February 2017.
Terrazas pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and other crimes and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. Arterburn's wife filed a civil lawsuit that claims managers at Eddy's were negligent in the events leading up to the officer's injuries, which include brain damage and require round-the-clock care.
Brandon and Rodney Steven — whose business empire includes the dealership, Genesis Health Clubs, the Wichita Thunder hockey team, and an unsuccessful effort to open a casino — are named as defendants in the civil case, along with Terrazas and the dealership.
Evidence made public through the civil case revealed the Tahoe's Bluetooth system logged calls to and from upper-level managers at Eddy's while the vehicle was used by Terrazas. Additionally, officials recalled making contact with the dealership about the Tahoe.
A month before the high-speed chase, former Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission agent Craig Pentecost took interest in the Tahoe while investigating a pair of strange-acting women at the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, about 20 miles south of Wichita. Surveillance video showed Terrazas used the dealership's Tahoe to drop the women off, the agent said. Pentecost suspected the women were prostitutes.
Pentecost said he called Eddy's to inquire about the dealer's tag, which wasn't reported stolen. Pentecost said he got "the runaround" from management there, which was consistent with a previous experience involving a different vehicle with a dealer's tag that had been left at the casino for a week.
The Tahoe used by Terrazas wasn't reported stolen until police who were monitoring a house as part of a drug-trafficking investigation took note of the dealership tag.
Wichita police officer Steven Jerrell said he went to Eddy's to inquire about the Tahoe and spoke to an employee who was frustrated by upper management.
"I told her it was my knowledge that it was assigned to them," Jerrell said, "and she immediately told me that the vehicle had been missing since sometime in December of 2017 ... and that she had attempted to report the vehicle stolen on multiple occasions."
The woman told Jerrell that she was confused and frustrated by management's refusal to tell police the Tahoe was missing. The dealership had received calls from security at the casino, she said, asking if the dealership knew where its vehicle was.
"The way she described it," Jerrell said, "was the vehicle was casing the parking lot. That is my word — 'casing' — or a law enforcement term. But she indicated that they had called on a couple of occasions."
The employee told Jerrell that management sometimes loans out vehicles, "and they're just not sure where vehicles are."
After Jerrell left, the dealership decided to report the Tahoe as stolen. Police tried to make a traffic stop, but Terrazas sped away and ran over Arterburn as the 25-year police force veteran tried to deploy stop sticks.
Attorneys for the defendants in the civil case tried to counter sue Terrazas in an attempt to focus liability on the drug dealer. Plaintiffs complained the move was "behind-the-scenes posturing," and the judge agreed, dismissing the counter claim.