Today, the widow of Thomas “Brent” Stephens filed a civil lawsuit against Kenneth Paul Reda arising from Brent’s death in a boating collision on Lake Allatoona on the night of April 22, 2010. The suit was filed by Lori Stephens in the Superior Court of Paulding County. Also named were Reda’s wife, Melissa, and his father-in-law, who the suit alleges may be responsible because they may have owned the boat and permitted Reda to use it.
Brent Stephens and Reda were friends and fellow police officers and SWAT Team members with the Cobb County Police Department. Reda was driving the boat and Brent, along with Shelley Powell, were passengers. The suit alleges Reda drove the boat into a fixed marker at a high rate of speed at night, causing part of the marker to break off and strike and injure Brent and throw him overboard, where he drowned.
The suit also claims Reda tampered with evidence and made false statements to conceal what happened. “Rather than immediately call 911 for his friend,” BLG’s John Salter said, “Reda instructed Mrs. Powell to remove all the empty beer bottles, conspired to mislead law enforcement, falsely denied there was any alcohol on board, and lied to the 911 operator and the other first responders about what happened.” Mr. Salter is counsel for Lori Stephens, along with BLG’s Allison Barnes Salter.
According to the suit, Reda deceived law enforcement into thinking Brent jumped from the boat as prank because if law enforcement believed Brent would be found alive, Reda hoped he might avoid a blood alcohol test. Emergency crews searched throughout the night of April 22. Brent’s body was not found until the next afternoon.
According to Allison Salter, “it is awful that Brent’s family spent hours hoping to find him alive when Reda knew the truth all along. And some of the things Reda said to mislead the investigation have been unnecessary, untrue and very hurtful to the family.”
“I know Brent and Lori because we all went to South Cobb High School and are around the same age,” Allison Salter said. “It might be a long legal journey, but our goal is to collect a substantial monetary judgment that will mitigate for Lori and her young children the loss of a brave officer and, to them, a really good husband and father.”