Teenager Killed During High-Speed Police Chase
An HPD officer apparently ignored the department’s no-chase policy and pursued a nonviolent offender at speeds of over 100mph, until the chase ended tragically.
The chase began when officers witnessed two vehicles street racing on I-45 near Gulf Bank Road. The suspect, who was driving a Kia, apparently saw the officer and accelerated down the highway.
Investigators said the suspect was still speeding when he blew through a red light at the intersection of the I-45 feeder road and FM-1960. At the same time, police said a 19-year-old riding a motorcycle was traveling through the intersection, going eastbound on FM-1960. The suspect struck the young motorcyclist in what police called a “horrendous” crash and continued half a mile down the road until the Kia stopped, seemingly due to damage from the crash.
HPD said the primary officer chasing the suspect stopped immediately and tried to perform CPR on the victim, but the 19-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
Houston police edited their pursuit policy in September after another fatal crash involving suspects fleeing police. The new policy bans pursuits for minor thefts, traffic violations, and misdemeanor warrants. It also mandates a supervisor approve every pursuit.
A spokesperson for the police department could not verify if this pursuit was approved by a supervisor but said all facets of the pursuit are part of their internal investigation.
High Speed Police Chase Dangers
Although the Department of Justice called high-speed chases the most dangerous form of police work (more dangerous than unjustified shootings), these chases are embedded in police officers’ psyche.
On the record, officers state that they cannot pick and choose when and where to enforce the law. However, off the record, they admit the adrenaline rush that comes from “getting the bad guy” is too strong to resist.
To curtail this danger, many law enforcement agencies, such as the HPD, have at least partially banned high-speed chases. These policies make it easier for a Sugar Land car accident lawyer to obtain compensation for chase victims. More on that below.
High-speed police chases aren’t just statistically dangerous. Arguably, they have no place in a modern police force. Instead of pursuing a suspect, police officers could easily tag suspects and safely apprehend them later.
If the department has a clear anti-chase policy, a Missouri City personal injury lawyer can use a violation of that policy to establish officer negligence. However most law enforcement agencies have vague pursuit policies, like “pursue with caution.” So, a policy violation is harder to establish.
In these cases, attorneys usually go to Plan B, which is establishing extreme recklessness on the part of the pursuing officer. Some factors to consider include:
- Time of day,
- Severity of the alleged offense,
- Length of the pursuit,
- Type of area (i.e. residential or commercial), and
- Speed of the pursuit.
The standard of evidence is only a preponderance of the proof (more likely than not). However, the evidence must be strong enough to overcome the sovereign immunity defense.
This doctrine, which shields police officers from liability in reckless shooting cases, gives police officers and other government officials broad powers to carry out their official duties, even if someone gets hurt in the process.
The sovereign immunity defense isn’t the only procedural obstacle in these cases. Usually, the notice of claim rule applies as well.
Before an attorney can file legal paperwork, an attorney must file a notice of claim in most of these cases. This notice gives a police department an opportunity to investigate a claim before it becomes public record and settle the matter quietly. If the police department doesn’t make a reasonable settlement offer, only then can the case go to court.
Compensation in a personal injury case usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.
Rely on a Hard-Working Fort Bend County Attorney
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Missouri City, contact the Henrietta Ezeoke Law Firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.