The Chico police violated their own pursuit policy. Read it here.
In the chase that killed my daughter, the officers knew exactly who they were chasing. Prior to the chase, the teen's mother called the Chico PD and told them her daughter had taken her RAV 4 without permission. The Chico PD not only knew who the teen was—but prior to the chase, which occurred in 100 percent residential neighborhoods -- they knew her full name, age, address, that she was an inexperienced driver, and that it was her mother's vehicle.
Yes, an inexperienced driver is a danger on the road ... and so are many licensed drivers. But an inexperienced driver, looking in her rear-view mirror to see where the police are and speeding through a dark residential neighborhood poses an even greater threat to the public. Prior to the chase, there is nothing in the police report that indicates the teen's driving was posing an immediate threat to public safety. She was not running stop signs and she was not speeding -- but that changed immediately when the officers started to chase her.
After the Chico Enterprise-Record, our local newspaper, had to make a legal request for information about the pursuit because Chico PD was not giving them the information, we learned from the official police report that witnesses stated the speed of the chase was between 50 and 55 mph and the teen said she was traveling at least 65 mph during the chase (a far cry from the police statement that it was a low-speed chase in the Anderson Cooper 360 story). In fact, the police originally reported the chase at 35 mph for a stolen vehicle but never mentioned that it was mom's vehicle. When the local media started asking more questions because many things about this chase were not adding up, the police later changed the speed of the chase to 45 mph when they talked to the media.
No matter what the speed, all I know is that the chase was fast enough to kill Kristie.
Also, the police say the teen was a runaway, but they knew exactly where to find her: at a friend's house. Dispatch tells the officer the suspect is the registered owner's daughter.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Did the teen who took her mother's RAV 4 without permission kill my Kristie? She most certainly did.
2. If the Chico police officers had not chased, would the teen have continued to drive slowly and obey stop signs? Most likely.
If the officers had not chased the teen, would they have apprehended her? Certainly. If the officers had followed their pursuit policy, would Kristie be alive today? Tragically—yes.
Chico's pursuit policy compared to Information in the police documents of the chase that killed Kristie:
1. Chico's 2002 pursuit policy states: "A pursuit shall be abandoned if it is traversing traffic-controlled intersections."
Information in the police documentst: Prior to the chase, the teen was not speeding and she was not running stop signs. When the teen decided to flee, she ran the first stop sign at 20 mph. According to the policy, the pursuit should have been terminated at that point. Yet officers continued to chase her at night through a poorly lit residential neighborhood. As the chase continued, and according to statements in the police report, the speed of the chase increased to 55-65 mph. Both the suspect and officers ignored four more stop signs until she plowed into our van that was traveling on an intersecting street with no stop signs.
2. Policy states: "Whenever the collision risks outweigh the benefits of apprehending the violator, the pursuit shall be abandoned."
This was a case of a teen who took her mom's car and could be caught later, clearly a minor offense. Prior to the chase, her driving was not posing a threat to public safety. But, early in the chase, she almost hit another innocent third party, so there was obviously a collision risk, and yet, the pursuit still was not abandoned.
3. Chico's pursuit policy advises officers to catch juveniles later (i.e., not chase them), especially if officers know the juvenile's identity. Obviously, chasing inexperienced drivers poses an even greater threat to public safety. The officers knew prior to initiating the pursuit that the driver was a teenage girl whose identity, age and address were known; and certainly officers would have caught her later. Just as I now know that fleeing suspects serve little or no time in jail, the officers had to know that even if she killed someone in this chase, they would not be able to physically arrest her because she was a juvenile.
Thus, when I was burying my innocent Kristie, the teen who supposedly justified a pursuit was home with her mother. In fact, soon after the chase, while I watched Kristie die at the hospital, the teen went home with her mother.
When my husband, Mark, and I learned that the teen's maximum sentence was going to be one year in juvenile hall, Mark asked why they couldn't push for a more severe sentence. The D.A. actually responded to my husband, a victim of a crime, "Well, you know she's only a juvenile."
Officers knew she was only a juvenile before the chase! The D.A. then challenged my husband by asking, "What would you like to have done, Mr. Priano?"
To which my husband responded, "I would like to have my daughter back, and seeing this is not going to happen, I would like to see an appropriate punishment since it was so necessary to catch her that night."
Mark said that meeting was heartrending and sensed that the D.A. thought we were asking for too much. Mark added, "He got the feeling that Kristie just did not count." In 1987 the California legislature passed a law that awards blanket immunity to all law enforcement agencies with a pursuit policy that meets rudimentary standards. The legislature continues to neglect to make compliance with the Vehicle Pursuit policy a requirement. Can you think of any other public-safety priority where thoughtful policy is developed, adopted, and then legally ignored? All other law enforcement policies require accountability. Accountability should never be feared. It is critical to good government. You will see that am fighting to save the lives of innocent bystanders and the lives of our police officers who too often get killed and injured in these chases and the suspects get away! Before my Kristie was killed, I didn't realize that innocent people got killed in these chases either. 502 innocent victims of pursuit were killed in the United States from 2000 to 2003! (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and these are just the deaths reported to NHTSA!) Here is a quote from California's Fourth Appellate Court that addresses the immunity issue: "Unfortunately, the adoption of a policy which may never be implemented is cold comfort to innocent bystanders who get in the way of a police pursuit. We do not know if the policy was followed in this instance, and that is precisely the point: We will never know because defendant [the public entity that employs officers] did not have to prove ... that the police officers participating in this pursuit followed the policy. It is especially chilling that this particular instance occurred on the property of a school where students were present, but it is also sad that one blameless person was seriously injured [and later died] as a result of the pursuit, and that his family has no option for redress." —California 4th Appellate Court Justice William Rylaarsdam ruling on another chase that killed an innocent victim and clearly making a plea for the Legislature to correct this flaw in California's state law, Nov. 22, 2002. Regarding what happened to the fleeing teen, it was just another slap in the face to me and that's why I hope the stricter penalties in Kristie's Law will also pertain to juveniles. If you want more information about what happened to the teen I will send that information to you as well.Respectfully,