For camera-ready pictures
of Kristie, click here.


 

Imagine ...  

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.

Many 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.

 
Now, 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 Policy 
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.

The 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 residential neighborhood. 

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 injuries."

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 crime.

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 and sister, 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. 

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Contact Us

candypriano@kristieslaw.org

Mark, Candy, Steve and Kristie
back home in Valparaiso, Indiana.
The magical summer of 1993
.


Copyright 2003