For camera-ready pictures
of Kristie, click here.


Father's Day
will never be the same.
A quote from a CHP officer who rescued his grandson from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: "You can replace things, but you can't replace people."

The Chase that Killed Kristie
Leadership without accountability is not very compelling.

  1. Officers first told the media it was a low-speed, 35 mph chase in a residential neighborhood.
    Evidence: The impact was so severe that when the van finally came to a rest, it was nowhere near the intersection. in fact, the van came to a rest some 40 feet from the point of impact. It landed on its side next to a house.
  2. Policy dictates that "a pursuit shall be abandoned if it is traversing traffic-controlled intersections."
    Evidence:
    In the official police report, witnesses gave estimates of the speed as 45 mph, 50-55 mph, and the teen said she was going at least 65 mph during the pursuit. Information in the police documents about this chase reveals the speed of the chase was inconsistent throughout the chase and officers chased the teen through five stop signs. The first was a one-way stop way and the remaining four were two-way signs. In all she had the stop signs with intersecting traffic traveling on the road with the right of way.
  3. Officers told the media the pursuit was necessary to recover a stolen car.
    Evidence: Information in police documents proves the following: Prior to the chase, officers knew the driver's name and address and that she had taken her mother's SUV without permission.
  4. One media report claimed this chase was called off.
    Evidence: From an official report of the chase, Sgt. Rob Merrifield speaks to Officer Jim Parrott: "...if it's reckless I'm gonna call it off." (This is after four stop signs run and excessive speeds in a residential neighborhood at night with poor visibility. This wasn't reckless enough?) Officer Parrott acknowledges that he has heard Sgt. Merrifield and the pursuit continues. The next transmission is Officer Parrott announcing the crash at intersection of Fifth and Palm. As noted, Chico's pursuit policy dictates that "a pursuit shall be abandoned if it is traversing traffic-controlled streets."

Fifteen: Killing the Innocent Does Not Save Lives
By Candy Priano

Fifteen: Chapter 1

To read analysis of this chase, click here.
To read what happened to the teen driver and her friend, click here.

Chico Police Officer Jim Parrott's letter to the editor and the Prianos' response

The van sailed like a cotton ball, spinning around and around. When it finally came to a rest, it was nowhere near the intersection.


The van's frame and supports are destroyed, with welds and rivets on the other side. The van's top is split and popped.


This crushed side is off the frame and pushed deep into the van's interior, forming a V-shape. The chassis is not intact.

Chico's Pursuit Policy vs. Chico's Police Report
on the chase that resulted in the death of innocent Kristie Priano

Most fleeing suspects are back home before the officer finishes his/her paperwork. To read "Protect and Serve," click here.

Many, if not most, fleeing suspects are minor traffic offenders.

Restrictive pursuit policies encourage officers to catch suspects who flee in a different way that's safer for innocent bystanders and peace officers
.

Nothing in the Chico Police Department's documents of the chase suggests that the unlicensed teen's driving (prior to the chase) was posing a risk to public safety. She was not speeding, and she was not running stop signs. Prior to the chase, officers knew the teen had taken her mother's car without permission, but officers told the media the chase was to recover a "stolen" vehicle.

Of course the teen should have stopped and is responsible for Kristie's death. But just as true, the officers and the command supervisor need to be held accountable for not following their own department's pursuit policy. For policy information on pursuit objectives & priorities, click here.

Chico PD first told the media the pursuit was to recover a "stolen" RAV4 and that it was a low-speed chase, only 35 mph, at night through a residential neighborhood. When the Chico Police would not release any information about the chase, the Chico Enterprise-Record made a legal request to obtain this information.

Once the police report was made public, we read from the report that the teen said she was going approximately 65 mph and her two friends said "very fast." To read the police report on this information, click here. Witnesses said the speed of the pursuit was between 50-55 mph. To read the police report on this information, click here.

Lisa Sheikh, executive director of Crash Prevention in Washington, D.C., said, "All vehicles are required to protect passengers from side impacts up to 33.5 mph.  If the impact was at 35 mph, Kristie would have received minor injuries, instead of the massive head trauma that caused her death."

The Chico police made no effort to terminate the pursuit even when it became obvious that the risk to the surrounding public was greater than the seriousness of the teen's crime (violation of policy). Multiple patrol cars -- witnesses say four cars (violation of policy, click here) -- continued chasing the teen through a residential neighborhood at night on narrow streets, with poor lighting and low visibility (violation of policy). The street where the crash occurred has no curbs or sidewalks and huge oak trees are on the corners.

Just seconds before the crash, the command supervisor told officers: "If it gets reckless, I'm going to call it off."

This statement was made after excessive speeds, and four stop signs run (violation of policy, click here)
.

Our comment:
"This wasn't reckless enough!"

The teen was chased down Palm Avenue which has multiple stop signs; intersecting streets such as the one we were traveling on had no stop signs.

Retired Bellevue, Washington State Police Chief Donald Van Blaricom said, "This kind of situation is like playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun. Sooner or later you're going to hit a loaded one."

The officers were not disciplined for violating their pursuit policy which also states that if the identity of the suspect, especially a juvenile, is known and the suspect can be caught later, then the officer should abandon the pursuit, especially if the risk to the public is greater than the need to apprehend the suspect.

During a public meeting before Chico's Internal Affairs Committee at which Mark and I had asked the city to tighten its pursuit policy, Chico Police Chief Bruce Hagerty said a Chico police sergeant reviewed the pursuit and determined that it was "valid and controlled." Hanging in a moment of silence, I wondered how this pursuit could be "valid and controlled" when the only person to die was an innocent, young girl -- a loving daughter, devoted sister, honor student, class officer, athlete, and community volunteer.

The meeting ended with Chief Hagerty saying, "The police officers did follow policy.  And as pursuits go, this is as controlled as you can get."

Additional detailed information is from a typed document of the radio communication between officers involved in the chase (radio typescript) & official police documents:

In a news broadcast, a Chico police lieutenant tells the reporter three things that were later shown to be false:

•  They chased the teen because the car was stolen.

•  The speed of the pursuit was 35 mph.

•  Officers followed their pursuit policy.

From a typed document of the radio communication during the chase: Prior to the chase, Chico PD received a call from the teen's mother who told them that her daughter, 15, had taken her car without permission. She gave them her daughter's name, age and address. The mother also told them that her daughter was probably going to a friend's house and gave them the address.

The officer arrived moments after the teen pulled away from the house. The officer attempted to pull her over. Certainly the officer who tried to pull the teen over in a residential neighborhood had to consider before he even put on his lights & siren that the teen might not pull over appropriately.  

From a Chico E-R news story: At first it appeared as if she was going to stop, but according to Capt. Mike Maloney (who was not one of the officers involved in the pursuit), she changed her mind. Note, The radio typescript does not support Maloney's statement.

From Chico's Pursuit Policy:
Whenever officers pursue an offender, they shall continually weigh the risk of collision against the gravity of the offense, which prompted the pursuit.

Note: The first media report from the Chico PD states the reason for the chase was "a stolen RAV4." At some point, a reporter learned that it was mom's car and officers knew before the chase that the teen had taken her mother's car without permission!

California grants law enforcement departments immunity for simply adopting a pursuit policy, but officers and the public entity that employs the officers are not held accountable if the officers do not follow the policy they have actually adopted.

Of course, we have wondered why we did not hear or see anything -- no sirens, no flashing lights. Two police officers and a pursuit expert have answered this question for us. From the Top 10 reasons why unnecessary pursuits will continue, click here.

Per Chico's Pursuit Policy

Officers are NOT (caps in policy) obligated to continue any pursuit, taking into consideration such items as (items in bold are in the policy):

•  Roadway Conditions. This pursuit took place in a residential neighborhood with narrow, poorly lit streets with poor visibility at the intersections. Anyone who has driven through The Avenues knows that Fifth & Palm is a blind intersection with no curbs or sidewalks and large trees on the corners.

•  Speeds: This pursuit was in excess of posted speeds. As noted in the police report, witnesses said the cars were traveling 50 to 55 mph on Palm Avenue. The teen said she was going at least 65 mph (not 35 mph as reported in the first news broadcast). Also, the director of Crash Prevention in Washington, D.C. said, "If the chase had been at 35 mph, Kristie would have received minor injuries instead of the massive head trauma that caused her death."

The fleeing teen hit our van directly where Kristie was sitting. Kristie's dad, Mark, who was on the same side of the van as Kristie, was in ICU for almost 24 hours. His physical injuries were serious but not life threatening. My son, Steve, and I received physical injuries and life-long heartbreak.

•  Numbers and ages of bystanders and other motorists (their safety). A pursuit at high speeds on a dark January night through 100 percent residential streets was a threat to the safety of other motorists and pedestrians.

Chico's Pursuit Policy states, "A pursuit shall be abandoned if it is traversing traffic-controlled streets." This pursuit took place entirely in an area with multiple traffic-controlled intersections. The teen was chased down multiple streets with stop signs that were ignored, while intersecting streets such as the one Kristie's family was driving on had no stop signs.

•  Totality of the circumstances. This was a teenage driver whose identity was known and who had taken her mother's car without permission. This was not a suspected or convicted felon. The girl had no record. Had Kristie been killed to save a kidnapped child's life, I would still be filled with grief, but I would understand the necessity of that chase and I would not be trying to change California's outdated and dangerous pursuit practices. Our goal is NOT to ban pursuits. Our goal is to save innocent lives.

•  The reasonableness of continuing the pursuit. A quote from State Senator Sam Aanestad: "An innocent child in my district was killed in a high-speed police pursuit, and the police weren't even after some violent, dangerous criminal. They were chasing a teenage girl for driving her mother's car without permission. There's something very wrong when the police response to a crime poses a greater threat to public safety than the crime itself."

•  From the policy:
Driver of the vehicle being pursued is known or believed to be a juvenile whose identify can be ascertained.

Chico's pursuit policy advises officers to catch juveniles later if they know the juvenile's identity. The officers knew prior to initiating the pursuit that the driver was a teenage girl. Identity was known and it was highly likely that the teen could be found at a later time.

•  Another section of the Pursuit Policy states: The officer shall abandon the pursuit when traversing traffic-controlled, congested, narrow or blind streets. This pursuit took place with multiple patrol cars -- witnesses say four, Chico PD says two -- chasing the teen through a residential neighborhood at night on narrow streets, with poor lighting and low visibility.  The street where the crash occurred has no curbs or sidewalks and huge oak trees at the corners.

In the news broadcast, officers said they did not foresee the tragedy at the end. This statement is difficult to comprehend because the teen almost hit another innocent third-party earlier in the pursuit.

###

Links of interest:
"All pumped up," written by a police officer
Officer Jim Parrott's letter to the editor and the Prianos' respons
e

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