It was so senseless, so preventable. Beyond understanding.
A bright, happy future is gone ... "Our Kristie."
Skip the introduction and go directly to the pursuit story, right here.
Kristie was beautiful. She was destined to care for others. With sparkling green eyes and a smile to match, Kristie was already making a difference at her small high school ... it did not matter whether she was playing basketball, selling hot chocolate for the year-end trip to Six Flags, or cheering on the sidelines for Champion Christian School's awesome volleyball team. She broke a school track record as a freshman and spent school mission days with Habitat for Humanity or doing yard work for elderly widows. In eighth grade Kristie learned that third-year Spanish students ventured into the real world of mission work. She was determined to do that in her sophomore year! With great anticipation, Kristie, along with other dedicated students and parents, helped plan and raise money for a mission trip where the students would care for children in an orphanage in Costa Rica. In fact several of her fellow students say it was Kristie's tenacity that convinced at least one other student to participate in the trip. Sadly, Kristie never did realize this dream. We, Kristie's mom and dad, received her passport in the mail just weeks after the deadly pursuit that took Kristie's life.
of the junior high students wrote about how they looked up to Kristie because she was always friendly and reached out to them, sometimes reassuring the younger students that high school was a lot more fun than junior high. Everyone talks about her smile. Yes, her smile was beautiful. But it was Kristie's warmth and tenderness that could light up a room. She was always bouncing, always excited about what was going to happen next, always happy. Champion Christian School gave us a video tape of a Chapel celebration. With friends beside her, Kristie is singing with all her heart to her Lord. Just a couple seconds on that tape reveals a young woman so full of life ... so full of love. That will always be "Our Kristie."
Kristie continues to be an inspiration to others through her faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and in her own giving way as an organ donor. Kristie Priano is loved and missed by so many people. Certainly, those who loved her the most miss her hugs.
let's go back to January 22, 2002. We, Mark and Candy
Priano, our son Steve, and daughter Kristie were on our
way to Kristie's high school basketball game. At the same time events were
unfolding that would change our family forever.
The mother of an unlicensed teen had called the Chico Police
Department, reporting that her daughter had taken the family car without
permission. Keep in mind that individuals who flee from police are often
young and always exercise bad judgment. People who flee
from the police need to be punished to the fullest extent of the
law. That said, the actions of the
police should never create an enhanced level of danger to the surrounding
public or to the officers themselves. California state law requires
officers to have a pursuit policy. Officers and the agencies that
employ these officers receive blanket immunity even when officers fail to
follow their own agency's pursuit policy, leaving public safety twisting
in the wind. Prior to the Chico pursuit, nothing in the police report
or later releases from the Chico Police Department indicates that the
teenage girl was a threat to society. There were no reports that the girl
had been driving recklessly. Prior to the pursuit she was not speeding and
was not running stop signs. She was not even a suspected felon and
did not have a record.
- Officers Disregard Their Own Pursuit
- Chico's own
pursuit policy stresses that officers should use other alternatives to pursuit if the officers have identity information to
catch the suspect later. The Chico police had obtained this information from
the girl's mother when she told them her daughter had taken her car.
police report states that before the chase the girl was observed
picking up a female passenger and driving away from the house. She was not
speeding; she was not running stop signs. Shortly
after, the police signaled for her to pull over. The teenage girl slowed down as if to
stop and then she fled. Since the police knew they could not physically
detain her because of her age, they should not have risked a high-speed
chase, especially in a residential neighborhood at night.
Early on in the pursuit, the girl ran her first stop sign. Any pursuit traversing traffic-controlled shall be abandoned, according to the Chico Pursuit Policy. The
police, by their own policy,
should have terminated the chase. Instead, the police continued the chase.
As the chase continued, so did the risk to the public. It was equivalent to playing Russian
roulette with a loaded gun, except this time the weapon was a 4,000-pound bullet flying through a residential neighborhood. She
went through a second stop sign, while another officer
waited on the other side. After she passed him, he joined the chase. After
a near miss with another vehicle and with speeds escalating, the teen and
the police were now speeding,
running stop signs, and weaving in and out of traffic through a
- Two More Policy Violations
- Multiple patrol cars
witnesses say four, Chico PD says two continued chasing the teen
at night on narrow, dark
streets, with poor lighting and low visibility at multiple intersections.
The final street where the crash occurred has no curbs or sidewalks and
huge trees on each corner.
Many times the pursuit exceeded the 25 mph posted limit
and included a near miss with a doctor pulling out of his driveway.
He later talked to Mark at the hospital. When she ran her fifth stop
sign (Russian roulette), she slammed into our minivan at about 60 mph, directly
where Kristie was sitting. We did not hear sirens or see anything to
make us aware that we were in danger.
- Police Lie to the Media
- Chico PD first told the media the pursuit was
to recover a stolen car, never mentioning that the car belonged to the
suspect's mother and that the officers knew it was mom's car. They said it was a low-speed chase, only 35
mph. The impact forced our van to spin around and around,
taking out a homeowner's fence. When the van finally came to a rest,
it was on its side next to a house; the van was nowhere near the
intersection. After the Chico Enterprise-Record made a
legal request for information about the pursuit, the police said the speed
of the pursuit was probably 45 mph. In the police
report, the girl said she was going over 65; her friends said "very
fast." Witnesses said between 50-55 mph.
According to Lisa Sheikh, executive director of The
Partnership for Safe Driving in Washington, D.C., "All vehicles are
required to protect passengers from side impacts up to 33.3 mph. If
the impact was at 35 mph, Kristie would have received minor
- Public Safety Ignored
- More important, Chico's pursuit policy addresses public
safety in relation to road conditions, knowledge of the driver's name, age
and address, and the seriousness of the crime. This pursuit occurred
at night in a residential neighborhood, and the police knew the identity of
the driver. Sadly, the police made no
effort to call a halt to this pursuit even when it became obvious that the risk
of the pursuit to
the surrounding public was greater than the seriousness of the girl's
In addition, the likelihood of this girl going on to "injure or kill someone else" was not reason enough to chase
her. The danger was clearly created by the pursuit, not the girl's crime; otherwise, the girl would not have been able to go
home with her mother while Kristie was dying in a local hospital. Yes, that's right. While some people in law enforcement
say, "We must pursue 'the bad guys,' " what they don't tell you
is that most people who flee are back on the
streets before officers' finish their paperwork! And so it was
with the pursuit that took Kristie's life. As we stayed by Kristie's side at Enloe Hospital, the
people responsible for the Chico pursuit were all going home to their
families: the police and the three girls in the fleeing car, even
the driver. She went home with her mother! We spent seven days
at the hospital praying for a miracle....But that was not to be. Seven days later as an
unexpected snowfall softly covered this place I call "home," our
beautiful Kristie went home to be with Jesus.
- Chico Police Chief says, 'This is as
controlled as you can get.'
- Chico Police Chief Bruce Hagerty would later explain that "if the police
had not pursued, the girl might have killed someone else or herself,"
apparently not considering that Kristie was just as important as "someone else."
He indicated the girl was not taken into custody because she was a
juvenile and that she had injured her ankle. Chief Hagerty, who was
not a member of the Chico Police Department at the time of the pursuit,
was quoted in the Chico Enterprise-Record. He said, "The police
officers did follow policy. And as pursuits go, this is as
controlled as you can get." Who reviewed this pursuit and
validated it?? A sergeant in the Chico Police Department!
If the police had followed their pursuit policy and weighed the risk of
the crime against the risk of a police pursuit to the general public, Kristie would be
alive today because there would not even have been a pursuit.
The death of Kristie Priano
an honor student, class officer,
athlete, and community volunteer
is a sad story that leaves
permanent scars on her family and the community. As a daughter
Kristie was our "little spark plug." She was always there for
all of us a ready smile, a "let's go to the movies" kind
of day, and endless hugs ... even when she was not getting her own way.
"Our dynamic duo," that is what we called Kristie and her
older brother Steve. They laughed together, sometimes shared and
could always count on each other. As an awesome best friend to (in
alpha order) Amber, April and Christy, Kristie was trustworthy, fun
and a little bit stubborn but in a nice way, so her friends say! Her family and many friends
are blessed with wonderful, crazy memories that make us laugh and cry.