The author of this insightful Op Ed is my dear friend and supporter, Ellen Deitz Tucker.
Every similar fatality should make us examine police pursuit policies
Last Saturday I joined the crowd celebrating Belmont’s dedication of a beautiful riverfront park to the memory of Kevin Loftin, a former mayor who dedicated countless hours to bettering his hometown. As Richard Boyce (another former mayor) said, the city honored Kevin’s unifying vision of a park that would give free riverfront access to all.
But at the very same time, the public safety problem that killed Kevin and my sister Donna was replaying itself nearby. A driver pursued for shoplifting was colliding with an innocent driver on Franklin Boulevard in Gastonia. Those bystanders would need hospital treatment. The fleeing driver’s passenger would die in the crash. I would later read that the fleeing thief would be charged with “misdemeanor homicide.”
The man who struck Kevin’s car got a double charge of second degree murder. When I asked DA Locke Bell why, he said, “First of all, this is personal. I knew Kevin well and served with him on charitable boards.”
Since Donna and Kevin’s deaths, every pursuit-related fatality feels personal to me. Study of the issue has taught me that passengers in fleeing vehicles are seldom counted among the innocents who die in pursuits. Passengers are treated as accomplices, even when they are helpless captives in a car driven by a remorseless madman.
The Kevin I knew would say that the life of the woman who died was worth as much as his own. He’d also say that no human life should be put at risk to catch a fleeing shoplifter. Surveillance video and the license plate number would have enabled police to catch this thief later, after he stopped driving.
Ellen Deitz Tucker