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Officer's wife sues City of Sanger
Read Fresno Bee
PursuitWatch editorial: Tragedy in Fresno
Still Waiting

Kristie's Law would have saved Officer Joshua Lancaster's life: Fresno Sheriff Deputy Joshua Lancaster was an innocent bystander not involved in the pursuit. Controversy surrounds the death of Deputy Lancaster. Sanger PD pursued a suspected car thief, whose identity was known, into Fresno County. A deposition reveals that only two Sanger officers had radios capable of contacting other agencies. But the officers were too busy in the pursuit to use them. It is also interesting to note that the Fresno Sheriffs' policy does not allow chases for stolen cars, and in all probability the Sanger police know that.

Innocent victims of pursuit can also relate to the following statements published in The Fresno Bee:

Heather Lancaster said the decision to file the claim came after months of talking with friends and prayer.

But one thing swayed her to take action: Sanger police never apologized.

"Not a card of condolence, not a phone call," Heather Lancaster said. "Even the president sent a letter. ... Sanger has not said, 'We're sorry.' That is an immense slap in the face."

Heather Lancaster's statements represent what happens to most innocent victims of pursuit. Since 1987 when former Gov. George Deukmejian signed the blanket immunity law, innocent victims of pursuit in California have had their right to a fair trial taken away from them because California law enforcement agencies do not even have to prove that officers followed the pursuit policy their agency has actually adopted. California's Fourth Appellate Court expressed dissatisfaction with the current law, stating that "The balance appears to have shifted too far toward immunity and left public safety, as well as compensation for innocent victims, twisting in the wind."

"As if an innocent loved one's death weren't bad enough, families share stories of how law enforcement and even city officials and some politicians respond with silence, an effective weapon because it refuses to engage the issues. California courts are useless since our state grants blanket immunity to law enforcement agencies even if officers fail to follow their policy. Cases don't even get to discovery and are summarily dismissed, just like the victims. Personally, I can say the same thing about Chico that Heather Lancaster said about Sanger. No city officials and no one from the Chico Police Department seemed to really care that innocent Kristie, a law-abiding citizen, was killed in such a trivial pursuit. They were more concerned about covering up their mistakes and showed no concern that officers violated their own pursuit policy ... but then why should they care, they do not have to follow their policy, do they?" --- Candy Priano, posted 12/2/05


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