Just last week it happened again. In Los Angeles County, a red sedan led police officers on a length early morning chase. The pursuit began in Woodland Hills, which is located a little north of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. The suspect then sped down various freeways as well as surface streets in an attempt to evade capture. The chase lasted for about three hours, beginning around 4:15 am. The car chase finally ended all the way down in Fallbrook, which is located in San Diego County. The suspect turned down a cul de sac and was blocked in by officers. The chase ended with the female suspect peacefully surrendering.
And that wasn't the only chase in L.A. that day. Around noon, another driver took off when a CHP officer attempted to pull the man over in a traffic stop. That chase ended two hours later with the suspect again peacefully surrendering, this time down in Orange County.
Car chases are an all too common sight in the City of Angels. If there is a pursuit in progress, news stations often interrupt whatever program is currently on to bring the audience live coverage. According to Los Angeles Magazine, there are some "5,000-6,000 police pursuits . . . in California every year." News helicopters follow many of these fleeing drivers, broadcasting the pursuits for the world to see.
While car chases may draw a viewing audience, they can also lead to death and injury for those unlucky enough to cross paths with the suspect's car. A 2015 USA Today article stated that "[a]t least 11,506 people, including 6,300 fleeing suspects, were killed in police chases from 1979 through 2013." Though the majority of the deaths were the fleeing drivers, the second largest group of deaths were "non-violators," -- the non-violators are "bystanders and passengers in fleeing cars." And the numbers reported could be even higher because the "NHTSA uses police reports to determine if a crash was chase-related, and some reports do not disclose that a chase occurred."
A look at some 63,000 chases in California over a twelve year period show that, surprisingly, the drivers who choose to flee instead of stop aren't typically running from the police because they have committed a serious crime such as murder. In fact, "[m]ore than 89% were for vehicle-code violations, including speeding, vehicle theft, reckless driving, and 4,898 instances of a missing license plate or an expired registration." Just 168 chases involved a "known murder suspect."
Police pursuit policies vary from department to department. While some departments permit officers to pursue simple traffic violators, others will only allow under certain circumstances. For example, the Florida Highway Patrol limits pursuits to "suspected felons, drunk drivers, and reckless drivers." However, regardless of pursuit policy, if a bystander is killed the police department could face a civil lawsuit from the family of the deceased.
One such lawsuit was recently filed in Tennessee after a young mother was killed by a fleeing driver being pursued by the police. The family of 28-year old Jessica Campos is suing the Coffee County Sheriff's Department and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department, among others, for negligence. According to WKRN, Campos "was killed when she was struck by Garieon Simmons as while she was pulling out of a parking lot onto Church Street in Murfreesboro, Tennessee." Her seven-month old daughter was also in the car, but she survived the crash. The driver of the fleeing car, Garieon Simmons, has also been named in the suit. He faces a slew of criminal charges, including vehicular homicide.
If you or a loved one was injured or received damage due to a Police chase, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Luvell L. Glanton today at (615) 244-4511.