The widow of slain Highway Patrol Officer Brian Lorenzo has sued the alleged drunken driver who struck and killed her husband last month on Interstate 95, as well as the Bensalem restaurant that served alcohol to the accused murderer on the night of the crash.
In her civil case filed on Thursday in Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court, Linda Lorenzo does not seek specific monetary damages from TGI Fridays, its parent company or defendant John D. Leck Jr.
Yet, the mere existence of the civil suit may help Linda Lorenzo’s lawyers uncover more information about Leck’s activities just prior to the fatal crash.
“[Now that] we have filed the lawsuit we [are] in a position to serve discovery subpoenas to all other liquor establishments in that area … between TGI Fridays in Bensalem and where he crashed,” said attorney James J. Binns, who represents Linda Lorenzo along with fellow attorneys James E. Beasley and Scott Bennett.
The crash occurred at 3:13 a.m. on July 8 in the northbound lanes of I-95 just south of the Cottman Avenue interchange. According to Pennsylvania State Police, Leck was driving his Audi sedan southbound in the northbound lanes at a high speed when he struck a northbound police motorcycle operated by Brian Lorenzo, who was in uniform and on his way home from work.
Witnesses said the motorcycle burst into flames. Lorenzo, a 48-year-old father of three from Somerton, died at the scene from undisclosed injuries.
State police allege that Leck, 47, of Levittown, entered the highway by traveling up the Cottman Avenue exit ramp.
Linda Lorenzo’s lawsuit states that Leck’s blood-alcohol content was measured at .218, almost three times the legal limit of .08, and that he had consumed at least six alcoholic drinks at TGI Fridays, 3301 Street Road, earlier that night.
Leck reportedly paid his bar tab at 1:16 a.m. and left the restaurant. Authorities have not disclosed or determined his whereabouts for the almost two hours prior to the crash.
Binns said that Linda Lorenzo’s attorneys hope to subpoena records from licensed liquor-serving businesses in the area, including register receipts and videotapes, along with Leck’s credit card records.
The attorney acknowledged that criminal investigators have probably been trying to get the same information.
“They might, but we can’t wait for them. There are two different tracks,” Binns said, referring to the civil and criminal proceedings.
The civil suit argues that Leck was intoxicated before leaving TGI Fridays because he was “so drunk that he has no recollection of where he went afterwards, until he, with a blood alcohol level of .218, killed Officer Lorenzo.”
The lawsuit did not cite specific statements by Leck to authorities. Police have not released publicly any statements by the defendant.
Leck drank “at a minimum” three 22-ounce Coors Lights, two vodka drinks and one 14-ounce Coors Light at TGI Fridays, according to the lawsuit. Authorities have not released those details publicly.
In addition to Leck and TGI Fridays, the lawsuit names the restaurant’s parent company, Carlson Restaurant/TGI Fridays of Carrollton, Texas, as a defendant.
In response to a request for comment, Carlson released the following prepared statement on behalf of TGI Fridays: “We join the community in the profound grief regarding the death of Officer Brian Lorenzo. Our heartfelt thoughts remain with his family and colleagues, and we continue to work with state and local law enforcement on their ongoing investigation. As this matter is now in litigation, it is inappropriate for us to discuss specifics.”
Leck is charged criminally with murder, homicide by vehicle/driving while under the influence, aggravated assault, homicide by vehicle, driving while under the influence and involuntary manslaughter. He has no prior criminal record.
Leck, who is single and was employed at a Trevose collections agency, was scheduled to appear in Municipal Court for the first time on Friday at a motions hearing, but it was postponed. He remains incarcerated at the Philadelphia Detention Center on State Road in lieu of bail pending a Sept. 26 preliminary hearing.
Linda Lorenzo was unavailable for comment, according to Binns.
“We’re trying to get as much financial compensation as possible for Mrs. Lorenzo, but nothing will bring back Brian,” Binns said. “If we could get Brian back, it would be worth all the money in the world.” ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org