May 27, 2023 is the 16th anniversary of Paul Farris‘ and Walid Chahine’s deaths, and my heart has never been the same.
They were killed by a man fleeing police (#PoliceChase) – running through the dark and densely packed streets of Somerville, MA. The fleeing man was driving at 75 miles per hour, pursued by a State Trooper, when he broadsided the taxi driven by Walid and in which Paul and Katelyn were passengers. Paul was thrown from the taxi and died immediately. Walid was grievously injured and passed a week later. Kate survived, hospitalized for months, with doctors saying it was a miracle she lived.
Fast forward to April, 2023. The man who stole Paul and Walid’s lives walked away from prison, free but on parole for the next 15 years. I hope, with all of my heart, that he doesn’t drive again and doesn’t endanger your sons, daughters, moms, dads, best friends or others…
We miss you, Paul.
Music was a huge part of Paul’s life, as it is for me. I dream that Paul is still playing and singing his music – in a better place.
Paul Farris singing – circa 2005
I think if Paul was still here that he’d be horrified by the death and destruction in Ukraine. Here’s a song by his college band, theMark.
I’m so tired Of guns on my mind Lives fall away When shells and tempers fly.
And if I should die When stars and stripes collide And every soldier loses faith in flight.
Stay home next time And keep your shoes tied.
Many different songs remind me of Paul. And many bring tears even after so long. Two are linked here.
Riverside “Towards the Blue Horizon”
Where are you now my friend? I miss those days I hope they take good care of you there And you can still play the guitar And sing your songs I just miss those days And miss you so Wish I could be strong When darkness comes
All these words that I left unspoken I will say when I meet you again. I see you but I can’t feel your presence I feel you but you’re fading away.
December 1, 2022: Jon Farris, Chief Advocate of Pursuit For Change, writes about a technology crowdfunding pledge opportunity. Please take a moment to learn about an opportunity that will most certainly lead to fewer policy-pursuit related injuries and deaths.
During the past 15+ years, since the death of my son Paul, I have advocated for stricter policies and smarter laws surrounding police pursuits. Additionally, I have supported companies that have developed pursuit reduction and safety technology tools to reduce chases and help save innocent lives.
Today I’d like to introduce you to one of those companies, PursuitAlert.
Tim Morgan is a cofounder and CEO of Pursuit Alert. Tim has spent nearly forty years working with and for law enforcement, serving twenty-two as a Pickens County SC Assistant Sheriff. I have known Tim since 2016 and I know how committed he is to saving lives.
The PursuitAlert Digital Siren is a patented warning system that allows law enforcement to send real-time, critical messaging to your smartphone when you are near any emergency response including dangerous police pursuits.
WHY am I reaching out today? The PursuitAlert team needs support to expand their system and network. They have recently developed relationships with Waze Maps, Apple Maps, Stelantis passenger vehicles (Chrysler, Jeep) and have just signed an NDA for discussions with Amazon. And even more vehicles and smartphone apps will be added in the near future.
So I’m asking you to consider an investment PLEDGE. This website (https://pursuitalertdigitalsiren.sppx.io/) provides an overview of what the PursuitAlert team is proposing and has planned for the company going forward. This is a “Testing the Waters” pledge. The choice is yours, but I do hope you’ll seriously consider signing up to support PursuitAlert.
There is simply NO REASON for law enforcement to be elevating a Walmart theft into a DANGEROUS POLICE PURSUIT the endangers so many innocent citizens.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved with this situation. Thankfully and luckily, no bystanders were injured or killed. Law enforcement agencies must create smarter and stricter pursuit policies so this just does not happen.
41-Year-Old Arrested for High-Speed Chase after 20 Dollar Walmart Theft
A high-speed chase occurred after a theft at Walmart around 2 pm on Monday.
According to early reports a call from Walmart to a person who had stolen several items including a hat, deodorant, and other small items with the possibility of leaving the store. Associates attempted to stop the suspect but he pushed through running out of the store.
He got into a White Sonata that was waiting for him and left the parking lot that’s when the sheriff’s department attempted to stop the vehicle in front of Taco Bell on US-23 but instead of stopping he put his foot on the gas.
Jon Farris, Chief Advocate at Pursuit for Change, is asked about this very dangerous #PoliceChase and unsuccessful PIT maneuver. As we told Mr. Arenas, based upon the information available the pitting of this suspect in traffic represented an extreme danger for everyone driving nearby. It is very lucky that no one was killed.
“All of a sudden out of nowhere, we hear tires screeching and a loud bang. Then, we see the car go past us all. Shrapnel from both cars the police SUV and the suspect’s car was just everywhere,” said Hall, of Aurora.
See the video and read the rest of the story HERE.
“Jonathan Farris, an advocate for the nonprofit Pursuit for Change, an organization that pushes for safer police pursuit policies, called the Santa Fe Police Department’s chase policy vague and said it doesn’t give much direction for when an officer should give up on a pursuit.”
Pursuit policy questioned after deaths in I-25 crash
By Sean P. Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org Mar 19, 2022 Updated Mar 20, 2022
Jeannine Jaramillo’s alleged crimes in Santa Fe and Cibola counties within months of each other are strikingly similar: stolen cars, reckless chases and claims of a kidnapper or male aggressor who doesn’t appear to exist.
The outcomes widely differ.
When Jaramillo was suspected of leading Cibola County deputies into oncoming traffic at high speeds in September 2021, they called off the pursuit. They later found the stolen vehicle at a residence and took Jaramillo into custody, according to records of the case.
FBI tactical squad members approach a command center March 2 on Interstate 25 near Old Pecos Trail after a Santa Fe police officer and another motorist, a retired firefighter, were killed in a multiple-car crash during a police pursuit. Jim Weber/New Mexican file photo
We have asked Mr. Thomas to post one correction. This statement “Farris, whose son Paul Farris was killed in 2007 when a cab he was riding in was struck by a Massachusetts state trooper chasing a driver suspected of a traffic violation…” is incorrect. In actuality, the cab Paul was riding in was struck by the fleeing driver’s SUV, and not by the Trooper. An important clarification.
adminPursuit policy questioned after deaths in I-25 crash
Posted: Feb 23, 2022 / 04:32 PM EST
Updated: Feb 23, 2022 / 04:37 PM EST
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Just after midnight Dec. 4, a 22-mile police pursuit from Tusculum to Johnson City, Tenn. ended in the death of A Pearson, a completely uninvolved motorist.
A car driven by Christian Morrow and pursued by a Tusculum Police Department (TPD) officer and the TPD chief after Morrow passed the officer at 104 miles per hour lost control and crashed into Pearson’s car. Pearson died at the scene, while Morrow is in jail on other charges as an investigation into the accident that caused Pearson’s death continues.
November 08, 2021 at 11:07 pm EST
By Ted Daniel, Boston 25 News
Note from PFC: At 101 miles per hour the Trooper’s SUV was traveling more than 148 feet per second and can cover a half mile in just 20 seconds. Innocent victim Sarah Stevens should never have been put in this situation.
The trooper was racing to join a pursuit several towns away, MSP documents show
LEOMINSTER, Mass. — She was on her commute back home to Fitchburg that January night last year when Sarah Stevens says her life was changed.
The 30-year-old emergency room nurse stopped at the Wendy’s on N. Main Street in Leominster following a 12-hour shift at Lowell General and was exiting the parking lot when, she says, the sudden and violent impact happened. An unmarked state police cruiser slammed into the driver’s side of her Ford Focus.
Sarah Stevens (photos from Boston25 News)
The January 29, 2020 crash totaled her car and shattered her body.
“I know that I was in the coma for about a week. I fractured my shoulder, had eight broken ribs, a lacerated liver, a bleeding kidney,” recalled Stevens. “I had brain bleeds, a dissected carotid artery. They also had to go in and put a coil in my kidney to stop the bleeding.”
See the video and read the rest of the story HERE.
adminTrooper was traveling 100+ mph before slamming into car
City Council committee to consider police pursuit changes
UPDATED 14 HRS AGO | POSTED ON JUN 28, 2021
ATLANTA (CBS46) — Joi and Doug Partridge will never forget the day they lost their two children Cameron and Layla, and Joi’s mother, Dorothy Wright. Wright was driving her grandchildren to church when she was hit by the driver of a stolen car fleeing from police in 2016 in Southwest Atlanta.
“It really hurts because I lost my parent and my two kids,” Joi Partridge told CBS46’s Hayley Mason.
Police said officers attempted to stop a stolen vehicle on the 9900 block of West Good Hope Road shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday, but it instead led them on a chase and eventually crossed over into oncoming traffic. Police said the pursuit was then terminated, but the car continued to drive against traffic and hit another vehicle head-on at 50 to 60 miles an hour
Officer Irvine’s death was completely preventable.
But instead, Milwaukee chose to double down and chase even more stolen vehicles, KNOWINGLY ENDANGERINGmany many citizens each and every time.
So FOUR YEARS after making a truly CRITICAL MISTAKE, Milwaukee continues to endanger, maim and kill citizens while NOT solving anything. Is this incompetence or simply a blatant disregard for the area’s population?
PS: Oh, I almost forgot. Milwaukee is working on yet more billboards. Just brilliant…
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article above:
“A cadre of city officials announced a new billboard campaign discouraging reckless driving. And they all touched on the troubling problem of people as young as 12 years old stealing cars and using them for joyriding and driving dangerously.”
by Jonathan Farris
Dad and Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
February 23, 2021
As Though We Don’t Have Enough To Deal With
For any parent who has lost a child, regardless of that child’s age, there’s a gnawing ache that never completely goes away.
When the death first occurs and for several years afterwards, the wound is incredibly raw. Then, as years progress, many parents (definitely not all) learn to manage the pain and sorrow and move toward a more “normal” life.
This is what I call the “new normal” – because there will never again be the old normal…
The journey along this new normal has many speed bumps. Even after 14 years, for me music is a trigger for tears and moments sorrow. This is a regular occurrence and I’ve learned to simply go with it. The triggered event may last a minute or may last longer, but thankfully the new normal generally follows.
Because Paul was a victim of a crime (fleeing and officer in a police pursuit), our new normal includes issues surrounding the individual who killed Paul.
More than three years after Paul was killed (May 2007) we spoke at the trial. He was sentenced to 15-20 years plus 15 years additional probation for his crimes.
In early 2020, seemingly out of the blue, we received notification he was eligible for parole. Yep, an unexpected trigger event!
With help from many, we provided the parole board with convincing information that he should not be released early and they denied his release. But parole hearings often become an annual affair, as was the case with Paul’s killer.
On Monday I attended a Zoom Parole Board hearing for him. There were several parole board members, a victim’s advocate (the individual who helps guide us through the legal system maze), me, and “him.”
I won’t go into any more details, but after the hearing the parole board voted against early release.
So another trigger event can be tabled until next year, when we’ll likely go through the process again.
For all of you who knew Paul and who supported us through this ongoing journey, THANK YOU. This is a journey that’s virtually impossible without support from friends and family.
By Jonathan Farris, Dad and Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Many of our readers will envision this particular Monday as the day before one of the United States’ most contentious Presidential elections.
Some of our readers are worried about the COVID19 pandemic and devastation caused to individuals, families, countries and the world. As of my writing this, 234,000 people have died in the US and 1,200,000 have died worldwide. Horrible beyond mere words.
But on November 2, 2020 I will take a moment to forget this election, to forget the pandemic, and to instead focus on good memories.
Paul Farris was taken from us in May of 2007. And 2020 will be his 14th missed birthday. Unimaginable.
I suspect given the current state of things, we would have emailed Paul a silly card, texted a funny greeting and then spoken to him when he finished work.
He would be heartbroken that such a horrendous chapter of history is being written in 2020. However, I suspect that in addition to being despondent, he’d be engaged doing whatever he could to make a better future for our world.
Or perhaps he’d just be sitting around drinking beer. We’ll never know…
Just like every birthday, and indeed every day, we miss you immensely.
Kinda weird. Hitting golf balls at the range and listening to music today. On comes Paul singing the band Thursday’s Understanding in a Car Crash (Paul’s version is here: https://paulfarris.org/paul-music-2/).
I mean, really. It’s Thursday and him singing about a car crash… <:(
Sadly, in our current all-too-divisive country and world, many people will read this article and say, “So what, it was just some illegal aliens.”
So to them we say, those were REAL PEOPLE. They had/have families and friends who love them.
How would you feel if a drunk was driving your family or friends and made the stupid decision to flee? This happens regularly. Would it be OK if police chased and as a result YOUR FAMILY was killed or grievously injured? No, it would not be OK.
YOU WOULD BE OUTRAGED.
The Border Patrol chases regularly, and with impunity. This is wrong. Many, if not most of those pursuits, could be eliminated with a stricter and smarter pursuit policy, significantly more driver training for Border Patrol Officers and much greater usage of Pursuit Reduction Technology.
Border Patrol Agent Speaks Out About A High-Speed Chase That Ended In An Immigrant’s Death
by Debbie Nathan
February 28 2020, 7:00 a.m.
A FEW MINUTES BEFORE midnight on January 29, an Ecuadorian man was killed in a car crash near downtown El Paso, Texas, only yards from the U.S.-Mexico border. An Ecuadorian woman was gravely hurt and weeks later is just emerging from a coma. She’s missing part of her skull and half of her body appears to be paralyzed. Stuck in a hospital thousands of miles from her kin, she has had few visitors, but one has been a Border Patrol agent who feels grief-stricken by the accident and believes the Border Patrol played a major role in causing it. The agent recently had an emotional meeting with a family member of the severely injured woman and offered to testify if the family brings a lawsuit.
Police reports say the crash was caused by a drunk driver who picked up the Ecuadorians after they crossed into the U.S. illegally. The driver is said to have been a smuggler who was speeding to evade the Border Patrol, and crashed because he was driving too fast. But the agent says that the chase was improper. It occurred near downtown El Paso on West Paisano Drive, on a section of road so prone to crashes that local law enforcement officers call it a “deadly curve.”
Wisconsin State Senator Chris Kapenga stated on February 19, 2020 in news release, “Car thefts (are) increasing in 8 of the 10 most populous (Wisconsin) counties.” Here is the proposed WI Legislation that increases the penalties for vehicle theft, reckless driving, and fleeing an officer:https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2019/proposals/sb769
The PFC take on this legislation?
We believe that legislation INCREASING PENALTIES for individuals (criminals) who fail to stop for a law enforcement officer (LEO) is good policy. The same can be said for vehicle theft and reckless driving penalties.
However, where this legislation falls woefully short is relating to the EVER INCREASING NUMBER OF DANGEROUS #POLICECHASES that are occurring in Wisconsin, often as a result of these types of crimes.
If our elected officials REALLY WANT TO PROTECT CITIZENS AND LEO’S from unnecessary injuries and death, then implement STRONGER PURSUIT POLICIES, limiting police chases to only the most violent felony actions, and NOT FOR STOLEN CARS OR PROPERTY THEFT.
Yes, auto theft is up in most large Wisconsin counties, though down statewide
The issue of reckless driving has gained urgency as lawmakers, police and residents grapple with how to get a handle on increasing danger on neighborhood streets.
One approach: Crack down on auto theft.
In Milwaukee and elsewhere, the police pursuit of stolen vehicles has led to accidents, including a Feb. 1, 2020 incident in Wauwatosa, when a stolen car being pursued by Milwaukee police crashed into a tree.
State Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, introduced a bill to address auto theft that, among other things, increases penalties for reckless driving, fleeing an officer and vehicle theft. The measure won Senate approval Feb. 19, 2020 on a 19-14 vote and was sent to the Assembly.
In a news release that day, Kapenga argued: “Reckless driving and car thefts have been a major issue not only in Milwaukee County but also across the state with car thefts increasing in 8 of the 10 most populous counties.”
Is Kapenga right?
When asked for backup, Kapenga’s chief of staff Kyle Koenen pointed to the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting Database. READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE
It’s been a while since I posted a note. Apologies, but life has and continues to get in the way of my advocacy efforts.
I do, however, want to give you a brief update on the “justice system.”
In the early morning of May 27, 2007 a man named Javier Morales killed my son. It was a collision by this guy’s SUV, being pursued by a Massachusetts State Trooper for an illegal u-turn. Morales was doing 76MPH when he broadsided the taxi. The rest is too horrible to describe again, so I shall not.
Four years after Paul’s and Walid Chahine’s deaths, Morales was sentenced to prison for two concurrent sentences of 15-20 years, with dispensation for time already served. The “15” portion of that 15-20 year sentence is supposed to be THE EARLIEST that Morales would be eligible for parole. So, doing the math, we should not expect anything about a parole hearing until May 23, 2022.
So imagine my family’s horror when, in late 2019 we received a letter from the Parole Board’s stating that his first parole hearing would be in 2020.
I won’t get into the details of why he was eligible for parole early, but suffice it to say the criminal justice system needs plenty of work.
So now we’ll deal with this additional insanity every year. Yes, many pains simply remain forever.
We miss you, Paul.
Here is the post-hearing ruling from the Parole Board:
Dear Mr. Farris:
The Parole Board conducted a parole hearing for the above named offender and has voted to deny parole release. Inmates for whom the Board has denied parole may appeal the decision within 30 days or request reconsideration after 90 days.
If there is any change in the Board’s decision, you will be notified. The Parole Board conducts an annual review hearing for those individuals who have been denied parole. The offender will be scheduled for a parole hearing each year until parole is granted or the sentence is completed.
If the offender completes his sentence before his next scheduled parole hearing, the correctional facility will be responsible for informing you of the release. Please be advised, this offender may be eligible for mandatory release to supervision pursuant to M.G.L. c.127, §130B. If this does occur, you will be notified 14 days prior to the date of release to supervision. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.
Here’s the Farris family’s pre-hearing letter to the Parole Board:
RE: Javier Morales
Dear Members of the Massachusetts Parole Board,
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to express our great concerns regarding a possible early parole for Javier Morales, the individual who killed our son Paul Farris.
We are Jonathan, Roberta and Scott Farris, Paul Farris’ parents and brother.
At 4:30 AM on May 27, 2007 we received a call that no family should ever get – an emergency room doctor telling us our son had been killed in a car crash several hours earlier. There are simply no words to explain what that call was like. From that instant, and for every day since, our lives have been inexorably transformed for the worse.
Our incredible son and brother, Paul, was taken from our lives and from the lives of so many others who knew and loved him. We have not, nor shall we ever, heal from the emotional scars caused directly by a career criminal, Javier Morales.
We invite you to view Paul’s memorial website PaulFarris.org, to see, to hear and to better understand who we forever lost.
The police chase that killed Paul started with an illegal U-turn by Morales and his subsequent fleeing from a State Trooper. As a result of this, we are active with Pursuit For Change (PursuitForChange.org), an organization which advocates for stricter pursuit policies and for greater usage of pursuit reduction technology.
When Paul was killed, it took several days to learn what had happened that night; to learn how Paul Farris and Walid Chahine were killed and why Katelyn Hoyt was so severely injured that she nearly died and spent years recovering.
Paul is dead because Morales was once again driving illegally. Paul is dead because Morales illegally fled from a State Trooper and that trooper engaged Morales in a high-speed pursuit.
Paul was an amazing young man. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Tufts University in 2006 and was working as an insurance claims adjuster. He had taken his LSATs and planned to attend law school in 2008. Paul had absolutely everything going for him. Javier Morales killed him.
This was not an “accident,” but rather Morales’ deliberate and criminal flight from the police that caused Paul’s death. The borrowed SUV was going 76 mph, without headlights, on a narrow street in the most densely populated city in all New England. Whether Javier Morales had fired a gun that night or because he drove a 4,000-pound SUV that ripped Paul from the taxi – the result was the death of both Paul and Walid Chahine. Javier Morales killed them. Additionally, Katelyn Hoyt was so severely injured that she was unconscious for nearly four weeks. She remained in Massachusetts General Hospital for four months and continued rehabilitation with her parents in New York before finally being able to return to Boston.
As you can see from Morales’ lengthy arrest historybelow, since 1995 he drove illegally many times; he committed other crimes; he hurt people; and never displayed even the slightest remorse.
It is frighteningly obvious to us that when Morales is released from prison he will slide behind the wheel of a car. He will drive illegally. He will certainly run if pursued by law enforcement. And he will most assuredly injure, maim or kill another innocent victim.
From the summary below you can see Morales’ criminal history and the inordinate number of times he was given another chance, released and forgiven. And as a result of those previous decisions, on May 27, 2007 he crossed the threshold from petty criminal to murderer.
He deliberately ran from the police while illegally driving, and at that time our son and Scott’s brother, Paul Farris and Walid Chahine were both killed.
In 2011, after waiting several years for Morales to be deemed mentally competent to stand trial, he received two sentences of 15-20 years to be served concurrently. That was a very small price to pay for killing two innocent bystanders (Paul & Walid) and for the grievous injuries to a third victim (Katelyn).
Even taking into account time served beginning on May 27, 2007, Morales has served less than 13 years of his sentence. And he has done virtually nothing to redeem or better himself during these 12-plus years in prison.
Releasing Morales before he serves at least the minimum 15-year sentence would be a travesty and a great injustice to Paul, Walid, Katelyn and our grieving families. Morales skated away from far too many arrests and convictions, most for driving illegally, and there is simply no valid reason for him to be released early.
From the bottom of our hearts, we implore you to deny Morales’ parole.
Jonathan, Roberta & Scott Farris
Javier Morales’ arrest history (as of 5/29/2007)
When Javier Morales faced his first adult arraignment on May 24, 1995, it was twelve years before the fatal May 27, 2007 crash involving Jessica LeBlanc’s father’s car driven by Morales. Our son Paul Farris, one victim of the 2007 crash, was 14 the first time his accused murder stood before a judge.
These are the charges Morales has stood before judges on:
On May 24, 1995 Morales was arraigned in South Boston District Court for a compulsory insurance violation and operating a motor vehicle without a license. Morales defaulted, did not show up to court to answer for the charges and warrants were issued. Both charges were dismissed on May 1, 2001.
On Aug. 23, 1995 Morales was arraigned in Brookline District Court and charged with a compulsory insurance violation. The case was closed on Sept. 22, 1995 when the case was ruled nolle prosequi, which means the charges were dismissed as if they had never been brought because of insufficient evidence.
On May 24, 1996 Morales was arraigned in Dedham District Court and charged with trespassing. The trial was continued until Aug 7, 1999 and charges were continued without finding, which means the accused does not have a guilty plea entered on his or her record, but must comply with terms of probation. One year later, Morales defaulted on an order to pay court costs and a fine to the victim witness fund and a default warrant was issued. Four days later, the warrant was withdrawn and police dropped the charges on Sept. 3, 1997.
Morales was arraigned on Aug. 12, 1997 in Lynn District Court for disorderly conduct. The trial was continued until Oct. 3, 1997 and the charge was continued without finding. On April 3, 1998 Morales was sentenced to community service and ordered to pay a fine to the witness victim fund.
On Feb. 3, 1998 Morales appeared in court on allegations that he had violated his probation, which was terminated on April 14, 1998.
On Feb. 3, 1998 Morales was in Lynn District Court answering to charges of assault and battery, a possible violation of his probation. The trial was continued and on April 14, 1998 he was found guilty and sentenced to probation. Morales defaulted on paying into the victim witness fund on Aug. 2, 1999, but the default was removed the next day and police dismissed the charge on Dec. 3, 1999.
On April 30, 2001 Morales was arraigned in West Roxbury District Court on charges of malicious destruction of property, attempted larceny, possession of burglarious tools, and breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony. His trial was continued and he was issued a one-year suspended sentence on July 17, 2001. His trial was brought forward on Oct. 12, 2001 because of a probation violation. A judge issued a violation of probation finding and continued the trial to Jan. 17, 2003 at which time Morales was ordered to pay into the victim witness fund and his probation was terminated.
On Oct. 12, 2001 Morales was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, attaching the wrong motor vehicle plates, and compulsory insurance violation. A judge ordered him to pay court costs for all three charges and the trial was continued to March 4, 2002. Morales defaulted, the default was removed, and the trial was continued to June 24, 2002. Morales defaulted again, but the default was removed on July 2, 2002 and the charges were dismissed.
On June 4, 2004 Morales was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license in Roxbury District Court. The trial was continued to Aug. 12, 2004 and a default warrant was issued when Morales did not show up. The default was removed on Sept. 14, 2004 and the trial was continued to Nov. 30, 2004. Morales again defaulted, the default was removed on Feb. 18, 2005 and the trial continued to April 29, 2005, when he defaulted again and a warrant was issued. On Dec. 1, 2005 the default was removed and the charge was dismissed.
On Oct. 14, 2004 Morales was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license and knowingly receiving stolen property (a motor vehicle) in Somerville District Court. He had a jury trial and was found guilty of the license violation on Sept. 28, 2005. The other charge was dismissed. He was sentenced to a 10-day suspended sentence, which was terminated on Nov. 30, 2005.
On Nov. 17, 2005 Morales was arraigned on the charge of operating a vehicle with a suspended license in Concord District Court. He was in court on Dec. 27, 2005; Jan. 30, 2006; and on March 7, 2006 he was found guilty. Morales was sentenced to supervised probation and received a 10-day suspended sentence. He was ordered to pay a fine to the victim witness fund on Sept. 6, 2006 and defaulted on Oct. 31, 2006.
On May 29, 2007 Morales was arraigned from his hospital bed at Massachusetts General Hospital for Somerville District Court on the following charges: motor vehicular homicide by negligent operation, failure to stop for police, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, speeding, larceny of a motor vehicle, operation of a motor vehicle with a suspended license (subsequent offense), 10 counts of failure to stop or yield, marked lanes violation, breakdown lane violation, motor vehicle lights violation, improper turn. He was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail and a pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Jun 29, 2007.
I give special thanks for each you who support our mission to save the lives of innocent bystanders and law enforcement officers.
Don’t eat too much turkey today – that way you can eat even MORE PIE!
PS: One more thing to give thanks for today – being the opening sentence in a national paper editorial. Thank you Louisville Courier Journal (@courierjournal) and also to reporters Mandy McLaren (@mandy_mclaren) and Matt Glowicki (@MattGlo) for their excellent work.
Editorial: Louisville must restrict police chases before more people are hurt, killed
The Courier Journal Editorial Board Published 2:43 p.m. ET Nov. 22, 2019
Jon Farris asked the right question.
How would you feel if you got a phone call saying your son or daughter (or husband or wife or mother or father) was killed because of a high-speed police chase — a chase that was unnecessary because no lives were in danger?
Devastated? Confused? Furious?
Farris’ son died during such a chase. And in the last three years, seven people in Louisville were killed in police pursuits. READ THE REST OF THE STORY
By Jonathan Farris, Chief Advocate, Pursuit For Change
Paul was killed on May 27, 2007. That was the worst day of my life.
November 2, 2019 will be the thirteenth birthday not spent with him. No birthday wishes. No birthday beer. No birthday cake. No birthday celebration. No birthday phone call. Paul would have been 36. (see PaulFarris.org)
Since Paul’s death I have actively engaged to help prevent other innocent people and law enforcement officers suffering injury and death as a result of unnecessary pursuits.
I do this for you, but perhaps of equal importance, I do it for myself. This is a way to manage the unfathomable grief of losing my child. This is my PTSD therapy. This is my emotional release. It is the well from which I draw the strength to get up every morning.
There’s an excellent TEDx talk by Penny Kreitzer, a mom who lost her 21 year-old daughter. Her talk is entitled, “How to speak about the loss of a child.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV54J3JSdBg. Perhaps she can better explain a grieving parent’s journey better than I.
In the Pursuit For Change and PursuitResponse world, a Presidential Executive Order was signed in October 2019. The EO established a Commission on Law Enforcement and an Administration of Justice, which will study issues critical to ensuring that communities are safe and that those who enforce and administer the law are properly supported. Some areas of focus for the Commission, as summarized by IACP, include:
Challenges to law enforcement from mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and other social factors that influence crime;
The recruitment, hiring, training, and retention of law enforcement officers;
The physical safety, health, and wellness of law enforcement officers;
Steps that can be taken to better integrate education, employment, social services, and public health into efforts to reduce crime;
The effectiveness of law enforcement training methods;
The Commission will deliver a report and recommendations to the Attorney General within one year.
Although not specifically defined at this point, we have support from Department of Justice to actively participate and work toward the inclusion of specific training and technologies including everything related to the management of and reduction of vehicular pursuits which always endanger officers and citizens. This is great news and I’ll have more to report as we head into 2020.
Law enforcement has always and will continue to get “beat up” by the press and others, including me. And some boneheaded actions deserve calling out. So when it comes to unnecessary police chases, I’ll continue to press hard.
But with that said, the vast majority of actions taken by law enforcement professionals are warranted and necessary to protect us all, including some violent-felony vehicular pursuits. For their heroic actions, I truly support and thank LEOs for their public service. And I’m incredibly hopeful that, if we’re able to provide LEOs with better tools and more / better training, we will see reductions in the number of pursuits across the US. This, in turn, will save citizen and law enforcement officer lives.
Perhaps, after so many years, you’ve grown tired of reading and listening about my grief management and my pursuit reduction-related activities.
I won’t apologize. Nor shall I stop writing and speaking. I cannot, because it’s not yet time.
Happy Birthday Paul. I love you immensely and miss you even more.
From a book I recently read. The narrator describing a man after the violent death of his child:
Such a man is like a dreamer who wakes from a dream of grief to greater sorrow yet. All that he loves has now become a torment to him. A pin has been pulled from the access of the universe.Whatever one takes ones eye from threatens to flee away.
Such a man is lost to us. He moves, he speaks, but such a man is less than a shadow among all that he beholds. There is no picture of him possible. The smallest mark upon the page exaggerates his presence.
Who would seek the company such a man. That which speaks to us one to another and is beyond our words and beyond our lifting or the turning of a hand to say that this is the way that my heart is, or this. That thing was lost in him.
I was recently interviewed by Harrison Keegan. I’m always happy to speak with the media. And in this case, I was pleased that the deputy followed procedures and did what was necessary to protect citizens as best he was able.
However, I am heartbroken about the deaths of the Jamin Seabert, 41, Kimberly Seabert, 39, and Braeden Seabert, 19, caused by a drug and alcohol-abuse driver.
Three innocent people were killed, and the sheriff’s office has launched two separate investigations — one looking into the criminal culpability of the fleeing driver and another examining whether the deputies involved in the chase followed department procedure.
Sheriff Jim Arnott said he will wait for the Professional Standards Division to complete its investigation before saying anything definitive, but his first impression is that the pursuing deputy acted appropriately.
Two national police pursuit experts interviewed by the News-Leader said they agree with the sheriff.
The News-Leader asked the experts to review video clips of the pursuit from the TV show “Live PD” and the deputy’s dashboard camera, along with additional context provided by court documents and an interview with Sheriff Arnott.
While both experts said they had some concerns about the overall handling of the incident, they said they would not fault the pursuing deputy for his actions.
“The deputy wasn’t perfect, but he did probably everything that could have been expected of him,” said Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has co-authored a book on police pursuits.
Kenney said the deputy briefly went into a lane of oncoming traffic as the suspect was fleeing the crash scene on foot, and that is a move Kenney would advise against. But overall, Kenney said the deputy’s response to the situation was reasonable.
While they didn’t fault the pursuing deputy, Kenney and another expert — Pursuit for Change founder Jonathan Farris — said they had concerns about the department’s use of spike strips during the pursuit.
The sheriff’s office says it deployed spike strips and took out two of the fleeing suspect’s tires about a mile-and-a-half before the fatal crash.
Kenney and Farris said they will be interested to see whether the investigation determines taking out the tires made the fleeing truck more difficult to control and might have contributed to the crash.
adminDeputy’s Actions Prior To Deadly Missouri Crash
Phil Warshauer’s daughter Stephanie was killed in 2018 when police chased a stolen vehicle. Stephanie was one of FIVE (5) who died in that unnecessary collision. That story of her death is linked here:
Since that time, Phil and his family have advocated tirelessly to help reduce unnecessary chases. One of their success stories is below in a story By Nancy McLaughlin email@example.com in the Greensboro (SC) News & Record. That story is below.
I’ve had the honor to speak with Phil and I understand all that he’s going through and all that he is feeling. Stephanie’s death breaks my heart, because like my Paul, it was totally unnecessary. Only through advocacy efforts will we ever gain positive changes that save innocent lives.
New Guilford Sheriff’s Office policy places more restrictions on chases
July 16, 2019 GREENSBORO — The new way police chases will be handled by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office is drawing praise from the families of two women who were involved in a Battleground Avenue pursuit almost two years ago that ended their lives and three others.
Under the new policy from Sheriff Danny Rogers, deputies won’t be permitted to engage in pursuits involving crimes that are simple, nonviolent misdemeanors such as shoplifting.It was a report of a stolen vehicle which initiated the Battleground Avenue chase just before midnight on a Saturday in September 2017.
However, for serious crimes or if a person is considered violent — a carjacker, for instance — that would be justification for a deputy to initiate a pursuit.
“Sheriff Rogers was open to our suggestions,” said attorney Drew Brown, who represents the families of Stephanie Louise Warshauer and Alyssa Mackenzie Bolick. “The concept is you can get the criminal later. You don’t need to involve Battleground, Saturday night and 130 miles per hour.”
The policy took effect in May. The families of Warshauer and Bolick began pushing for the changes after the Sept. 30, 2017 accident that left five people dead, saying they wanted to see something good come from the tragedy.
Phil Warshauer, whose daughter Stephanie was driving the Optima that was hit, was interviewed as part of a new training video which deputies will see annually. He has said that he also wanted to see law enforcement officers be able to go home at night to their families.
“What keeps me going is Stephanie’s strength,” Warshauer said at the time of the crash. “She would be very upset that she lost a friend, and she would say, ‘Dad, how can that happen?’
“She would say, ‘Dad, don’t let that happen again.’”
Investigators say an Acura driven by Deshon Lee Manuel was trying to evade Deputy C. Lineback’s Dodge Charger as he sped through a light at the intersection of Battleground Avenue and New Garden Road at 130 mph when it struck the Optima carrying Warshauer and Bolick with enough force to push the car another 200 feet.
Manuel along with his two passengers — Theresa Monique Kingcade and Bruce Wayne Hunt — died at the scene.
A wrongful death suit by the estate of Kingcade was dismissed this spring without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled within a year.
The lawsuit blamed the officer for setting off a chain of events that ended in the deaths.
Most kinds of lawsuits against the state and individuals acting in a government capacity — such as law enforcement — are covered by sovereign immunity.
“It’s an awful set of circumstances,” said attorney Richard C. Metcalf, who represented Kingcade’s family.
Barnes defended his deputy at the time, saying the people inside the Acura drew the deputy’s attention because he could see them ducking at times and looking in his direction. And when the vehicle between them moved over as traffic began to flow, the Acura also moved over, keeping a car between them.
The deputy said at the time he steered his patrol car behind the Acura and ran the license plate number through a police database.
The vehicle then turned into a nearby apartment complex.
“He’s thinking there’s something not right here,” Barnes said of the deputy at the time.
As the Acura exited the apartment complex onto Battleground Avenue, it headed in the opposite direction. It was then that Lineback was alerted the car had been reported stolen.
The Acura accelerated. A chase ensued.
Lineback activated his siren and lights, which also turned on his dashboard camera.
As was policy at the time, the deputy radioed in to a supervisor. The supervisor didn’t have time to respond, Barnes said, because the chase had barely started when it ended 62 seconds later in the deadly crash.
On Friday, May 17th, Urban Milwaukee published an article highlighting a stolen vehicle police pursuit on North 45th and West Center Street. The fleeing vehicle ultimately rear-ended a taxi cab and crashed. Several bystanders were injured, but luckily they survived the ordeal.
The article mentioned that, “the City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force is set to meet for the first time on Friday, May 17th at City Hall. Among the topics likely to be discussed during that meeting and the Fire and Police Commission meeting were whether there are new police pursuit technologies that could help improve safety.”
Really? This is ironic because in 2018 MPD ended a pursuit reduction technology program. MPD and MFPC appear to be ignoring their previously successful use of GPS tracking technology. MPD ceased in this program 2018 and canceled already-approved additional GPS units.
It is simply a fact that continuing and expanding this program would have saved innocent lives and reduced bystander and officer injuries. These GPS unit purchases are public record and Urban Milwaukee covered this as well. Has anyone from MPD or the MFPC explained why? And now they are “looking for technologies that could help improve safety?”
Under (former Milwaukee PD Chief) Flynn the agency adopted new technology developed by a private company called StarChase, whereby police shoot at GPS “bullet” about the size of a soup can that can stick to a fleeing car.
A 2014 MPD report found it is effective in 55 percent of cases, meaning it sticks to a car and an arrest is later made. That compares to MPD’s horrible apprehension rate of 38 percent for 2018’s 940 chases.
“During the year 2016 MPD deployed this technology 156 times, successfully attaching it to fleeing vehicles 112 times,” a past FPC report noted.
The approach enables police to avoid high-speed chases that often are aggressive adrenaline-fueled contests between officers and a suspect that lose track of innocent bystanders in a dense urban setting.
Whereas the StarChase devices “give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions,” as MPD Inspector Terrence Gordon told Governing magazine in 2016. Yet since Chief Flynn retired, there has been no discussion of this technology.
So I ask, why are MFPC and MPD leadership ignoring their own past success with this technology? And of greater importance, why are these same officials allowing multiple dangerous pursuits every single day?
Of course technology alone is not a panacea. An intelligent and measured pursuit policy must balance enforcement with the risk to innocent citizens and officers. But that is certainly not occurring under current MPD policies, because tragically in 2018 one young officer was killed, twenty officers were injured, and numerous bystanders were killed and injured. And the carnage is continuing unabated into 2019.
Milwaukee has already exceeded its $5 million reserve for police settlements and now must borrow to settle lawsuits. This is after not properly considering or, more likely, ignoring available risk mitigation strategies (unless, of course, one counts the billboard campaign, which was a colossal waste of money).
No one pursuit-related solution will solve Milwaukee’s crime problems. Managing pursuits in the 21st century requires a mix of appropriate policies, extensive officer training and effective use of all available tools.
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission must explain to taxpayers why they and MPD ceased supporting a pursuit reduction program that was working. And as MFPC and MPD reflect upon their mind-boggling 940 pursuits, reconsider the fact that only effective technology combined with smarter pursuit driving policies will help tip MPD’s abysmal pursuit statistics back in the direction of saving lives and reducing injuries and property damage.
It’s clear that Milwaukee’s current pursuit policies and actions are costing too many lives and emptying city coffers.
Jonathan Farris is Chief Advocate for Pursuit For Change. Jon’s son Paul was an innocent bystander killed in a horrific police pursuit crash outside of Boston in May 2007.
adminOP ED City Should Change Police Pursuit Policy . Urban Milwaukee
On Friday, May 17th, Urban Milwaukee published an article highlighting a stolen vehicle police pursuit on North 45th and West Center Street. The fleeing vehicle ultimately rear-ended a taxi cab and crashed. In 2018, after the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (MFPC) 2017 mandate that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) weaken its nationally recognized pursuit policy, pursuits and these stories have become an everyday occurrence.
The article mentioned that the “City-County Carjacking and Reckless Driving Task Force is set to meet for the first time on Friday, May 17th at City Hall. Among the topics likely to be discussed during that meeting and the Fire and Police Commission meeting were whether there are new police pursuit technologies that could help improve safety.”
Really? This is ironic as both MPD and MFPC are ignoring their previously successful use of GPS tracking technology, a program which MPD ended in 2018. This, along with a now-cancelled contract to purchase more systems, would have saved innocent lives and reduced bystander and officer injuries. These GPS unit purchases are public record, and in fact, Urban Milwaukee covered this issue as well.
In a recent article Are Police Pursuits Out of Control?, written by Bruce Murphy and published on Thursday, April 25th, it stated:
Under (former Milwaukee PD Chief) Flynn the agency adopted new technology developed by a private company called StarChase, whereby police shoot at GPS “bullet” about the size of a soup can that can stick to a fleeing car. A 2014 MPD report found it is effective in 55 percent of cases, meaning it sticks to a car and an arrest is later made. That compares to MPD’s horrible apprehension rate of 38 percent for 2018’s 940 chases.
“During the year 2016 MPD deployed this technology 156 times, successfully attaching it to fleeing vehicles 112 times,” a past FPC report noted.
The approach enables police to avoid high-speed chases that often are aggressive adrenaline-fueled contests between officers and a suspect that lose track of innocent bystanders in a dense urban setting.
Whereas the StarChase devices “give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions,” as MPD Inspector Terrence Gordontold Governing magazine in 2016. Yet since Chief Flynn retired, there has been no discussion of this technology.
So I ask you, why are the MFPC and MPD leadership ignoring their own past success with this technology?
Technology alone is not a panacea. An intelligent and measured pursuit policymust balance enforcement with the risk to innocent public and officers. That is not happening under current policy, as tragically both officers and numerous civilians have been and will continue to be killed and injured.
No one pursuit-related solution will solve Milwaukee’s crime problems. Managing pursuits in the 21st century requires a mix of appropriate policies, extensive officer training and effective use of available tools.
I respectfully ask that MFPC explain to taxpayers why they ceased supporting a pursuit reduction program that was working. And as MFPC and MPD consider their mind boggling 940 pursuits, reconsider the fact that effective technology, combined with smarter pursuit driving policies, will help tip MPD’s currently abysmal pursuit statistics back in the direction of saving lives and reducing injuries and property damage.
It’s clear that the current pursuit policy is costing too many lives and emptying city coffers.
Neighbors in Bluff Heights were aghast Tuesday morning when a driver who’d been fleeing from police crashed, killing a woman and five dogs in the car he hit.
The woman, 41-year-old Jessica Bingaman, died at the hospital after rescuers freed her from the mangled wreckage and rushed her to get medical attention, according to police. There were six dogs in the car, four of which died at the scene. Two were taken to a local animal hospital where one of them died, police said
Neighbors said the crash happened when a white van plowed into a dark car on Third Street near Temple Avenue around 11:30 a.m. The van broadsided the car at high speed.
A tire flew off the car and hit a nearby wall. Photo by Valerie Osier.
“I saw the white van coming this way really fast. He was going at least 60 to 70 miles per hour,” Fabio Giannone said. “By the time I opened the door, he smashed into the car.”
The crash was so violent that a tire and axle from the car flew across the street and broke a concrete wall. Three parked vehicles—a minivan, a truck and a sedan—were also damaged in the crash.
Police identified the van’s driver as 43-year-old Los Angeles resident Javier Oliverez, who is a parolee and known gang member and was wanted on a warrant for robbery, Long Beach police spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said.
After being taken to the hospital for minor injuries, Oliverez was booked on suspicion of evading a police officer, felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter. He is being held at the Long Beach Jail with no bail.
At least two people were hospitalized and several dogs were killed. Photo by Valerie Osier.
After first-responders tended to the injured drivers, locals watched as firefighters covered one of the dead dogs with a blanket. Another was briefly hanging out of the car’s mangled door.
Jordan Wood said crews used the Jaws of Life to cut Bingaman out of her car. Wood had calmed down one of the dogs who was still alive, drawing thanks from fire crews.
Mourners placed flowers, dog toys and candles at the site of the crash. Bingaman was a local dog walker. She had the dogs in her car as part of a daycare service she ran, police said.
A memorial is crowded with dog toys, treats, flowers and candles. Photo by Jeremiah Dobruck.
Police said the chase started near Broadway and Alamitos Avenue where officers spotted the van, which had been reported stolen Monday.
The driver wouldn’t stop and officers followed, Long Beach police spokeswoman Shaunna Dandoy said.
Police will look into whether officers acted properly by chasing the van, Chavarria said. This review is typical for pursuits, she said.
A driver in a white van crashed into a car near Temple Avenue and Third Street as he was fleeing from police. Courtesy photo.
When they chase someone, the LBPD mandates its officers and supervisors continually evaluate whether it’s worth the risk. Among other things, they have to consider traffic conditions, whether they’re in a residential neighborhood, the recklessness of the suspect and what he or she is wanted for.
“A police pursuit is a dangerous activity that should be engaged in with the utmost awareness of the risks to other drivers, bystanders, the officers, and the suspect(s),” the LBPD manual says. “The primary purpose of a motor vehicle pursuit is to arrest fleeing suspects with the minimum amount of force necessary and to minimize the risk of harm to people and property.”
This story plays out EVERY SINGLE DAY across the US. Police chasing stolen vehicles and ALWAYS endangering innocent bystanders. In this case, Maria and Rosemary had to die so policy could chase. When will this stupidity end?
WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita police tell KSN that a 12-year-old girl and 70-year-old woman died after a multi-car crash in downtown Wichita. It happened just before 2 p.m. Sunday at Douglas and Broadway.
According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, a 2001 BMW with two people inside was fleeing from Wichita police on Broadway heading southbound.
At the intersection, the BMW struck a 1998 Toyota with three people inside on the drivers side. The Toyota spun out and struck another Chevy with one person.
The woman and girl who died in the crash are identified as 70-year-old Maria Wood and 12-year-old Rosemary McElroy. Both are from Wichita and were in the Toyota. Another woman, 36-year-old Jennifer Wood, was injured and transported to the hospital.
The two people in the BMW, 24-year-old Mia Collins and 38-year-old Christopher English, were transported to the hospital.
A driver of the Chevy, 65-year-old Alfred Angel, was also taken to the hospital.
Captain Jeff Weible says the two suspects accused of causing the crash are in the hospital.
The crash spawned from a car chase, when officers saw an alleged stolen vehicle at the 1000 block of North Broadway.
“As they were trying to turn around to follow the vehicle, the vehicle took off at a high rate of speed,” said Capt. Weible, Wichita Police Department.
Some people who work nearby said they keep replaying the scene in their mind. Legend Journey works inside a building right next to where the crash happened. She was emotional as she recalled what she saw.
“I just walked up to the window, and I saw her feet,” said Journey. “So, I ran away from the window. Just to know that it was right outside where I work and they wanted us to keep working.”
Police are still investigating. KSN hopes to learn more later todya.
“When we have an incident of this magnitude, we’re going to review it thoroughly to make sure we not only follow policy but state law,” said Capt. Weible.
While witnesses said they’re thinking of the families involved, they said they’re also trying to process what they saw.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Journey. “It kind of makes me angry because is stealing a car really worth two people’s lives?”
The areas from Topeka to Market on Douglas and from William to 1st Street on Broadway were shut down for several hours.
Police Chases For Misdemeanor Traffic Violations MUST STOP!
Independence Missouri is like way too many other jurisdictions. They allow officers virtually unlimited ability to engage in very dangerous, high speed police chases through city streets. And in cities like this, each and every day innocent citizens are injured and killed.
The answer is simple. STOP pursuing for misdemeanors and simple property crimes. Only pursue for violent felonies, and only then if no other safer options are available.
More training is necessary. Greater usage of technology tools is encouraged. And law enforcement MUST be held accountable for making poor decisions that injure or kill innocents.
Following is an excellent report by Cat Reid at television station KSHB 41. Go to their site and watch the video. Bad decisions abound, especially running at 80 MPH with a mud-streaked windshield. It is horrible that two innocent people were grievously injured, but tell me the pursuing officer could have seen a kid running into the street. It is actually amazing that no one was killed.
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — On a Saturday afternoon in January, Sherry Ross decided to drive her 91-year-old father to Mass.
“He was going, ‘you didn’t have to pick me up for church,’ and I said, ‘Dad, you don’t need to be driving when I can drive you,’” Ross said, remembering that day.
Just a few minutes later, Ross heard sirens near the intersection of Sterling Avenue and Blue Ridge Boulevard. Her father saw what was coming and tried to verbalize a warning.
“He yelled ‘watch,’ but he never got ‘out’ out,” Ross said.
The driver of a maroon pickup truck ran a red light and slammed into Ross’s small SUV, totaling it. Ross walked away with a broken sternum, while her dad suffered a broken sternum, eight broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Later, Ross would learn what had happened that day was more than just a horrific crash.
“It was awful, but I think what was so frustrating then was knowing it was a chase,” Ross said.
An Independence police officer attempted a traffic stop on Jan. 26 near the intersection of 23rd Street and Harvard Avenue. The officer’s dashboard camera video shows the suspect took off down Harvard, a quiet neighborhood street.
When the driver hit a dead end on 25th Street, he quickly reversed toward Sterling Avenue. As the man, later identified as James W. Mathis, tried to turn around, his tires became stuck in a muddy lot. Eventually he was able to drive off, spewing mud across the officer’s windshield in the process.
It’s hard to see what happened next, since the windshield wipers on the patrol car smeared the mud, impairing visibility in the video. However, according to a police report, the chase continued down Sterling Avenue, with Mathis running two red lights and reaching speeds of 84 miles per hour.
The four-minute pursuit ended as he ran a third light, crashing into Ross’s car.
The chase that ended in the crash, injuring Ross and her father, was initiated over a traffic violation. The officer said Mathis wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
“I was livid,” Ross said about learning the reason for the pursuit.
Her niece, Angela Angotti, felt the same way.
“We have to count on the law enforcement professionals to be calm and to make good decisions,” Angotti said, “and to have a police chase over a seat belt violation just seems unnecessary. It’s an unnecessary risk.”
Independence pursuit policy
Both Independence and Kansas City, Kansas, police allow pursuits for any crime.
Sherry Ross and her father are not the first people injured as a result of those chases. Over a five-year period, Independence pursuits led to $1.1 million in payouts for property damage and lawsuit settlements.
Multiple requests for interviews with the chiefs of both departments went unanswered.
An IPD spokesman did respond to some questions via email, emphasizing that the collateral damage of chases rests on the shoulders of suspects.
“It is the criminal who places the public at risk and puts themselves in danger for failing to lawfully comply with the vehicle stop,” Independence police spokesman John Syme said in the email. “Police officers are attempting to prevent crime and protect society.”
Syme declined to provide specifics on the pursuit involving Ross and her father, citing the potential for litigation in the case.
According to the Independence pursuit policy,“pursuits for traffic violations or for misdemeanors will be avoided or terminated if they pose unnecessary risk to life or property.”
“Oftentimes you’ll hear a pursuit immediately terminated if it’s just for traffic violations,” he said at the time. “But we also know that something that appears to be traffic at first, maybe just someone running a red light, could be indicative of something much more serious. Maybe they just committed a crime.”
That logic doesn’t hold up in the eyes of University of South Carolina professor Geoffrey Alpert, who has been studying high-risk police activities, including pursuits, for more than 30 years.
“You can’t justify a pursuit based on what you think or based on what you might know,” he said.
A model policy
Through his years of research, Alpert came to the conclusion that department’s policies have to draw a clear line in the sand.
“I think it’s important for management, the chief or the sheriff, to come in and say if you’re not chasing for a violent crime, then it’s not worth it,” he said.
Alpert points to the New Orleans Police Department’s policyas a model for other agencies. That policy allows for pursuits only when officers have “reasonable suspicion that a fleeing suspect has committed or has attempted to commit a crime of violence…and the escape of the subject would pose an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.”
In the policy, a crime of violence is defined as “a felony involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily injury or death.”
The NOPD policy prohibits pursuits for property and misdemeanor offenses and traffic or civil infractions.
Alpert argues such a policy is not only safer for the public, but also better for officers, who have mere seconds to make hard choices.
“It’s just not fair to the officers to force them to make all those decisions. I think management should do it from the boardroom,” he said.
Experts say another important attribute of any policy is the inclusion of an independent third party that can make the call on whether or not to pursue.
“As strange as it may sound, it sort of takes the heat off of the officer for that feeling of saying I just let somebody go. It wasn’t their decision,” said John Hamilton, an associate professor of criminal justice at Park University.
The IPD’s pursuit policy states that “the decision to initiate a vehicular pursuit rests with the individual officer.” However, a supervisor can terminate the chase at any time.
In 2018, 66 percent of initiated pursuits were terminated, with the majority of those decisions being made by the officers behind the wheel, according to IPD.
A call for change
It’s unclear why the department allowed the chase that injured Ross and her father to continue.
After the crash, officers determined James Mathis’s girlfriend and his 7-year-old son were in the backseat during the pursuit, according to the police report. Neither was wearing a seat belt during the chase, and Mathis was charged with endangerment of a child.
Police said they found 0.2 grams of marijuana in the center console of the truck, as well as drug paraphernalia, including a glass pipe and scale. According to the police report, an officer also found 1.4 grams of meth and a pipe in Mathis’s jeans pocket.
Before the chase, his record only reflected two traffic warrants and a revoked license. Now he’s facing charges for fleeing and for the crash.
For Sherry Ross, the end doesn’t justify the means.
“Something’s got to change,” she said.
The family is determined to see that happen. Angotti is an attorney and knows that one way to fight the issue is in court.
But she doesn’t want to sue the city of Independence. Instead, she wants her family compensated and the pursuit policy changed.
“It would be nice if it didn’t have to go this way this time, and if we can do something and use this to help other people,” she said.
adminSeat Belt Violation Pursuit Injures Innocent Bystanders
Changing how they chase: Most officers in Minnesota are forced to make judgment calls behind the wheel
February 18, 2019 10:20 PM
Police officers across Minnesota are forced to make a judgment call while behind the wheel on whether to engage in high-speed chases that could potentially jeopardize innocent lives.
Nearly 200 agencies leave those high-risk decisions up to officer discretion, according to a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS analysis of pursuit policies.
A national expert on police chases says those findings show departments are putting officers at a disadvantage by asking them to make risky decisions on the fly.
“You are putting that officer in a horrible position,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina, who has studied police chases for 30 years. “How fair is that to the officer?”
Alpert says such policies put officers and the public at risk.
Since last summer, nine innocent people have been injured or killed in the Twin Cities in the middle of police chases or moments after they were terminated.
“The person who flees from police should be punished… but not at the cost of my family’s life,” Alpert said.
Yet, high-speed chases are up 170 percent in Minnesota since 2010, according to the Department of Public Safety.
The review of pursuit policies show 27 departments – less than 15 percent – have banned chases over such violations. Those departments only allow officers to chase violent offenders suspected of committing crimes like armed robbery, assault or murder.
“We want to make things better, not worse,” said Chief Eric Gieseke with the Burnsville Police Department. His department banned chases nearly 30 years ago.
Gieseke says he wants his officers to ask themselves one question when making that decision: Is the chase worth dying for?
“Having a restrictive policy actually helps the officer because it gives them clear guidelines,” he said. “They’re not stuck in the middle of a very difficult decision making process during a rapidly evolving situation. It’s clear.”
In other departments, officers are expected to assess a variety of factors in a matter of seconds including traffic, weather, and the ability to arrest the suspect later.
“We want to make sure we’re not putting the public in harm’s way, unnecessarily,” Gieseke said. “We also want to protect the officers and give them the opportunity to go home safe at the end of the night.”
A recent national study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice suggests that restrictive pursuit policies, like the one in Burnsville, are becoming more common throughout the country. However, the data does not show how restrictive.
“I think you’re the first group that has really looked at a large number of policies and has determined what’s restrictive and what’s not,” said Alpert. “I would like to see this done in every state. I think the country needs to look at it. We need to know what our police are doing.”
‘Should have been called off a long time ago’
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS started analyzing police chases after a suspect chased by a state trooper for driving over the speed limit crashed into a Minneapolis playground. Three children were seriously injured in the crash.
Dash-camera video later released by the state patrol showed the trooper regretted that chase.
“Should have been called off a long time ago,” he said in the recording.
The agency is now reviewing its policy. However, when asked in December whether that chase was reasonable, Col. Matt Langer defended the troopers’ decisions.
“Our pursuit policy affords troopers the discretion in making those decisions and they’re trained on both the skill of driving fast and the decision making required,” Langer said. “Ultimately, it’s a subjective test.”
Gieseke, the police chief in Burnsville, says changing such policies is not always a popular decision.
“It wasn’t well received by a lot of officers, quite frankly,” Gieseke said. “There was a perception that everybody would come to Burnsville to commit crimes or all the bad men and women would get away, but that hasn’t been the case. The data doesn’t support that.”
adminMinnesota Police Chases Up 170 Percent since 2010