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USA Today: Death Toll from Police Chases Could Pass 15,000

From USA Today:

The U.S. government has drastically understated the number of people killed in high-speed police car chases, potentially by thousands of fatalities over several decades, a USA TODAY investigation shows.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration overlooked at least 101 motor-vehicle deaths in 2013 that were related to a police chase, according to a USA TODAY review of police reports and internal documents, court records, police-car videos and news accounts based on police statements. NHTSA’s count of 322 chase-related deaths in 2013 — the most recent year for which its records are publicly available — understates the total by at least 31%, the investigation shows.

NHTSA’s undercount suggests that the actual number of people killed in police chases since 1979 could be more than 15,000 — far more than the 11,506 chase-related deaths found in the agency’s public records — and that chases result in a death much more frequently than studies have stated.

People tend to think of these high speed chases as the good guys chasing the bad guy.  What’s crucial to understand is that innocent bystanders get killed.  Passengers get killed.  Not just the bad guy driver who decided to flee the police.  The bottom line is that high speed best practices need to be developed to minimize casualties.

Cop Car Crashes

From WJLA:

They’re sworn to serve and protect. But police officers are not immune to causing harm, especially behind the wheel. An ABC7 I-Team investigation discovered police officers in the D.C. area have been found at fault in hundreds of accidents, causing deaths, injuries and thousands of dollars in damages….

Some of the accidents also resulted in injuries, not just to officers, but also members of the public. In Montgomery County, which supplied the most detailed and comprehensive records, eight civilians have been injured since 2010 in police-involved accidents in which the officer was classified as responsible. Those incidents include a 2013 accident in which a person was hurt after being struck by an officer who didn’t see them walking through a parking garage.

The video that details the last seconds of Ashley McIntosh’s life has logged more than 240,000 views on YouTube. But for the Fairfax County woman’s mother, Cindy Colasanto, seeing it just once was enough.

“I can’t even tell you how I felt, how devastating it was to see,” Colasanto said.

Colasanto fought in Richmond to change laws requiring police lights and sirens after being forced to watch her daughter’s life end on a dash camera. McIntosh was killed by a police cruiser that slammed into her car. The officer had run a red light at a high rate of speed without using a siren.

Good reporting.

Cleveland Officers to be Prosecuted for Barrage of Gunfire


CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County grand jury Friday indicted six Cleveland police officers for their roles in a 2012 police chase and shooting that left two people dead and carved deep schisms into the community. The grand jury charged Patrolman Michael Brelo with two counts of voluntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony. The panel also accused five supervisors of dereliction of duty…

On Friday, McGinty said that after officers fired more than 100 shots at the car, Brelo started shooting again and fired at least 15 shots, including fatal ones, downward through the windshield into the victims at close range as he stood on the hood of Russell’s car.

“This was now a stop-and-shoot, no longer a chase-and-shoot,” McGinty said. “The law does not allow for a stop-and-shoot.” …

“Let’s be clear what happened here,” McGinty said about the case. “(Russell) was fully stopped. Escape was no longer even a remote possibility. The flight was over. The public was no longer in danger because the car was surrounded by police cars and 23 police officers in a schoolyard safely removed from pedestrians and traffic.

Mackala Ross and Delores Epps















Former Memphis police officer Alex Beard was speeding to a call with no siren when he rammed into a car, killing 13-year-old Mackala Ross and her mother, Delores Epps, age 53.  Mackala’s father, Michael Ross, was severely injured, but survived the crash.

This week the former officer was offered a plea deal by prosecutors: six months in jail.  Mr. Ross said the sentence was like a “slap in my face.”

The prosecutor said “this was the best that could be done.”   Hmm.

The above photo is Mackala’s school locker where her classmates made a little memorial.

Man Run Over by Police Cruiser

From the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

Investigators are searching for answers and members of a DeLand neighborhood are angry, all wondering how a man fleeing early Wednesday morning from a traffic stop ended up dead, run over by a police car.

Details about the incident remain sketchy. But preliminary reports indicate Marlon Brown, 38, fled from an attempted traffic stop, first in the vehicle he was driving, and then on foot.

A minute later, as Brown ran through a field, two DeLand police officers who heard the call over the radio followed in their patrol cars. Somehow, one of the police cars ended up knocking down a fence at the end of the field, and Brown ended up dead, under the car.

It all started because the man was not wearing his seat belt.

H/T:  Reason

Controversial Police Shooting in Cleveland

13 officers fire 137 rounds and kill Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.

Police say they fired in self-defense.


Russell ended up on a dead-end access road to an East Cleveland middle school, where the officers from various jurisdictions converged with the 13 Cleveland officers.

They surrounded the Malibu, and some officers were out of their cars when Russell rammed another police car, Gardner said.

Police are trained to use deadly force to stop a suspect from using a vehicle as a weapon. They opened fire.

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office is running gunshot-residue tests on Russell’s and Williams’ hands to determine if either fired a gun. The results should be in before week’s end.

No gun was found in Russell’s car or along the chase route. No bullet or casing was found outside the Justice Center.

Pathologists at the Medical Examiner’s Office removed 20 rounds from Russell’s body and 16 from Williams’ body. They both had additional wounds from bullets that entered and exited their bodies — Russell had 30 wounds, Williams had 20, an investigator said.

Officer Dies After Car Chase & Crash

From the Washington Post:

As the [police officers] caught up with the car on I-95 and relayed information about the Acura to a dispatcher, a supervisor got on the radio and questioned whether they were chasing the car, according to law enforcement officials.

That caution came too late. Morris, who was driving, lost control of the cruiser and crashed in a ravine, police said.

Morris was ejected and fatally injured, police said. Risher was hospitalized but was released the same day.

Police said Tuesday that they had not yet determined how fast Morris was driving. They said that detectives think Morris was not wearing a seat belt but that Risher was belted.

In September, Prince George’s police toughened their chase policies, limiting pursuits to suspects involved in just four crimes: homicides, shootings in which someone was hit, armed robberies and armed carjackings. By those standards, Morris seems to have violated policy and the supervisor acted appropriately, a law enforcement official said.

By all accounts, Morris was a great guy with a promising career in law enforcement.  Police agencies everywhere need to reexamine chase policies for the sake of both officers and civilians.

Junk Food Theft Triggers Chase, Crash


PLEASANT RIDGE – Potato chips, cookies, beef jerky, a couple fruit-flavored drinks, energy bars and candy – stolen goods valued at $26.29.

That alleged theft from a convenience store during the wee hours Tuesday morning touched off a police chase that ended with a carload of young girls crashing, leaving a 12-year-old girl in critical condition and hurting two others. Now criminal charges are pending against the girls, including the 16-year-old driver.

Cincinnati police internal investigators are also scrutinizing whether the officer followed proper procedures in the pursuit and in the officer’s attempt to use a Taser on the teen driver who allegedly tried to flee after the crash, police said. “They’re looking into all aspects of this incident,” said Sgt. Dennis Swingley, Cincinnati police spokesman.

Jury Awards $3.1 Million in Police Chase that Ended in Fatal Crash


A city jury returned a $3.1 million verdict Thursday against the village of Uplands Park for a police chase that ended in a deadly crash.

About half of the award is to compensate for the death of Lashanna Snipes, 34, who was driving her sister, two children and grandnephew to a relatives’ house to hang Christmas lights on Dec. 3, 2009, when a fleeing suspect struck her car at Goodfellow Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive.

The rest of the judgment is for injuries others in the car received.

Snipes’ sister, Ayanna Jones, who suffered multiple pelvis fractures, was awarded $670,000. Jones’ grandson, then 5, was awarded $400,000 in damages for a broken thigh bone.

Snipes’ son, who was 7 and suffered a broken collarbone and two broken legs, was awarded $275,000. His sister, then 12, who crawled from the wreckage to watch rescue crews try to free her mother’s lifeless body, received $250,000. She received a concussion in the crash.

Each award came in near or above what the plaintiffs were seeking. But because of a state law that caps what municipalities are liable for, attorneys for Uplands Park are expected to file a motion to reduce the judgment to $378,000 for each claim.

Still, said attorney Aaron Haber, who represented Jones and her grandson: “If nothing else, it sends a message.”

Haber said the case hinged on when and whether the officers called off the pursuit as they claimed.

Volunteer police officer Lamont Aikens and Sgt. Janet Riley began pursuing their 16-year-old suspect, Derion Henderson, when he clocked at 46 mph in a 30 zone in Uplands Park. They acknowledged picking up speed down Goodfellow Boulevard, but told authorities investigating the crash that they ended the pursuit upon crossing St. Louis Avenue, more than a dozen blocks before the crash scene.

But the attorneys for Snipes and her family played dispatch tapes with the sounds of speeding cars and sirens after that. They also played a video deposition of a witness, Ronesha Jones, who said the chase went by her at nearly 80 mph several blocks later. Ronesha Jones, who is not related to the victims, called St. Louis police saying her car was hit by both vehicles.

Aikens and Riley testified this week that they were forced to resume the chase after Henderson hit Ronesha Jones’ car. Todd Muchnick, another attorney for the family, said that claim was only made after the officers learned of Jones as a witness.

And this may have had an impact on the jury.

Aikens, who was driving the police car, was a volunteer without police certification. According to testimony, the department hired him about two months before the chase, knowing he had a history of 18 arrests — including two felonies.