An Austin police officer is suing Ford Motor Company and Leif Johnson Ford after he claims he was left severely ill from carbon monoxide poisoning. He says it happened inside one of the patrol cruisers. As a result, APD installed mobile detectors in all of their units. This year, 26 of them have tested positive for the toxic gas.
FOX 7 has interviewed Sgt. Zachary Lahood several times over the years. Now he is so sick, he can't work.
"Vision issues, headaches, nausea, dizziness," says Ken Casaday, Austin Police Association President.
On March 18th, Sgt. Lahood was driving his Ford Explorer patrol unit when he reportedly passed out behind the wheel. He was taken to the hospital where doctors found high levels of carbon monoxide in his body.
"He's one of the most friendly officers that we have in our department...alway outgoing, always smiling and that's changed. He's upset, I can't even tell you how upset he is. When you have to sit there at home and worry about whether you're ever going to go back and be a police officer again and how you're going to provide for my family," says Casaday.
Sgt. Lahood has now filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company. Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday is supporting his fellow officer, saying Ford needs to take responsibility and issue a recall.
"They're trying to make up excuses, that we add things to the vehicles and we drill holes in the vehicles to put in equipment. You know, I don't buy that. It's clearly a big mistake with their product. Soccer moms and citizens aren't drilling holes in their cars, says Casaday.
APD says Ford issued a technical safety bulletin in December with concerns about possible exhaust leaking into some of the Ford Explorer vehicles, models between 2011 and 2015. After Sgt. Lahood's incident in March, the City of Austin purchased 400 carbon monoxide detectors for their fleet. This year 26 units have tested positive for the toxic gas and have been taken out of service.
The city sent us a statement saying:
"As we have been since the initial incident, the City of Austin is focused on ensuring the safety of our employees by continuing to monitor these vehicles. The City is reviewing its future vehicle purchases to make sure that they are safe and meet the needs of our officers and staff."
Casaday says his main mission is to make sure officers are safe.
"They're out making sure the community is safe every day and I don't need to be worried, and they don't need to be worried, about being poisoned in their police cars," says Casaday.
Ford Motor Company sent FOX 7 a statement saying:
"We take the safety of our customers very seriously. In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers and Police Interceptor Utilities. We have thoroughly investigated reports of exhaust odor and do not believe this odor condition poses a safety risk. If customers have a concern with their vehicles, they are encouraged to contact their local Ford dealership. In the case of Police Interceptors, odors can be caused by non-Ford modifications or repairs that were not properly sealed."