The widow of fallen Dallas Police Officer Lorne Ahrens is suing the "Assist The Officer" Foundation, the group that collected millions in donations after the July 7 attack on police.
Det. Katrina Ahrens said her family was promised some of the money raised, but the foundation "is attempting to impose unlawful limitations on the families' use of the funds and has ordered all donations for Det. Ahrens be held," lawyers representing Ahrens said in a news release.
The Assist The Officer Foundation, The Dallas Police Association, and the City of Dallas are all named in the suit.
"I don't understand why this is coming up and I don't understand why it has to come up now," said Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata.
Mata says the timing could not be worse, almost a year after the very organization he says has worked to protect the families of the fallen five is now accused of holding public donations hostage. "We just felt that it was the right thing to do that this money would last not just for the spouse but for the children," he said.
Mata says the Assist the Officer foundation collected millions of dollars after the July 7th ambush and created trust funds for the survivors, but Detective Katrina Ahrens argues that not all the funds have been accounted for.
"We have been asking questions about what money has come in, how the money is to be allocated amongst the families, whether they've had an audit done because we've been told they had an audit done and when they produced the documents from the accountant, the first page says it's not an audit," said Ahrens attorney Casey Griffith.
The lawsuit also questions record keeping procedures and accuses the foundation of illegally seizing and opening mail containing donations that were addressed to Detective Ahrens, received by the city. "That has nothing to do with us, that mail did not come to us, it went to City Hall, police headquarters they had it for however long they had it we didn't know it even existed until the very end," Mata said.
Detective Ahrens wants accountability but the DPA feels this lawsuit could be very harmful for future fundraising efforts.
"To put this dark cloud, this shadow and to besmirch the name of Assist The Officer foundation that has done so much for so many people, is shameful," said Mata.
The Dallas Police Association says the funds are deposited into the trusts for the immediate use by the beneficiaries so long as it is for their health, education maintenance or support.
The Dallas Police Association also emailed NBC DFW the following statement:
“Through the overwhelming outpouring of support and financial assistance in the aftermath of last July’s ambush shooting of five police officers, the Assist The Officer program received millions of dollars in donations to aid the officers’ families, including spouses and children. In response to such a tragedy, and in consultation with attorneys for the Assist the Officer Foundation and attorneys from another large Dallas based non-profit, which donated approximately 20% of the funds received, our volunteer board comprised of active duty and reserve police officers decided to establish a trust to distribute the donated funds in order to guarantee the financial security of the widows and children of the officers slain in the line of duty.
Together, attorneys for the Assist the Officer Foundation and for another large Dallas-based non-profit, worked diligently to draft the trusts in a manner that would provide protection to the family members. The majority of these trusts have been funded with a local bank serving as the initial trustee. The Assist the Officer Foundation has tried repeatedly to fund the trusts for Mrs. Ahrens and her children but have been informed that she refuses to accept the funds in trust for herself or her children. It's unfortunate a law firm has filed this law suit as it could threaten the financial security of many police officers and their families in the future.”
Dallas Police Association
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Ahrens can be seen below: