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High-Speed-Chases: Casualties on both sides, including innocent bystanders

by mesha Monge-Irizarry (iolmisha [at]
High-Speed-Chases: Casualties on both sides, including innocent bystanders.
mesha Monge-Irizarry, Idriss Stelley Foundation

"The Street of San Francisco", ever since 1972, and the following flock of other cop shows have been the top theater of high speed chases that have fascinated the international TV public
High-Speed-Chases: Casualties on both sides, including innocent bystanders.
mesha Monge-Irizarry, Idriss Stelley Foundation

"The Street of San Francisco", ever since 1972, and the following flock of other cop shows have been the top theater of high speed chases that have fascinated the international TV public, now outdated by the sweeping rage of video games, i.e.: "Need for Speed: Most Wanted" (GameCube) ,
Electronic Arts Need for Speed Most Wanted (Black Edition). Kids excitedly look forward the weekend family outing at the SF Sony Metreon, to get into the killer driver seat at the Hi-tech arcade...

The apogee of my 2004 SFPD Academy 15-week training blew me away...We were proudly introduced to the High Speed Chase Virtual Reality Mega Machine (a $80,000 piece of work...) to learn how to "Catch the Bad Guys", trying to avoid crashing, dying or killing, while seasoned officers navigated the monster with the greatest of ease, only crashing, killing or dying very rarely during the deadly virtual race...The youngest trainees positively loved it and were laughing hysterically during the exercise...

The somber reality of Police high speed chases is not reflected in this blind folklore... Stolen lives, victims on both sides of the race, including innocent bystanders.

As seen in the SF Chronicle last Wednesday: (excerpt)
"A San Francisco police officer was killed early today near McLaren Park when his patrol car was struck by a vanload of robbery suspects being chased by other officers, authorities said. Officer Nick Birco, 39, a five-year department veteran who worked at the Bayview station, was struck about 1 a.m. at Cambridge and Felton streets in the Portola neighborhood, authorities said. The impact of the crash caused Birco's patrol car to spin 360 degrees, hit a curb and fall onto its side, Police Chief Heather Fong said at an early morning news conference. Other officers arrived and began administering CPR. Birco was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead "... " Birco is not the first San Francisco officer to be killed during a police chase. On June 12, 2002, Officer Jon Cook, 38, died at 17th and Dolores streets in the Mission District when his patrol car was struck by another police car responding to the same emergency call". A police spokesman stated that a phenomenon known as a "washout," in which competing sets of emergency sirens drown each other out, might have contributed to the crash.)..."Authorities investigating the crash that killed (Officer Birko) during the chase of robbery suspects are trying to determine why the officer drove into the pursuit without telling dispatchers"... "It's unknown how Birco came to be in the middle of the pursuit, or even whether he was there intentionally, said department sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is not yet complete Birco worked at Bayview station and was on duty there when he went out on the robbery call at .12:37 a.m., said sources who have seen computer dispatch logs".

On Feb 9, 2006, a high-speed police chase ended with the fugitive crashing at high speed into another car that was trying to cross the intersection of Franklin and McAllister. The fugitive ran from his car but was tackled by the police at the corner of Van Ness and McAllister a block away. The accident could easily have been fatal, but providentially that was not the case although driver's car whose car was smashed.

on April 4, 2006, two San Francisco police officers and three suspects were injured in a high-speed pursuit that started in the Mission District and ended on Treasure Island. Officers observed a man at 18th and Mission streets holding a gun. As the officers turned their car around to investigate, the man threw the gun inside a maroon Ford he was standing next to and then took off. Officers followed at high speeds through city streets and onto eastbound Interstate Highway 80. The Ford sedan exited the highway at Treasure Island and rammed one of the pursuing police cars several times. According to SFPD, the suspects rammed into several police vehicles and into one police car "head on." Two officers were injured. Officers opened fire at the men inside the vehicle and two were hit. Another man inside the car was injured in one of the collisions.

Throughout history, more than 200 law enforcement professionals have lost their lives in high speed chases. The first of those fatalities occurred on January 14, 1921, when Fresno County (CA) Traffic Officer Wellington L. Aubery's patrol vehicle skidded and crashed on a foggy, wet night while pursuing a traffic violator.

With the growing number of law officers and innocent citizens being killed or injured in high speed chases, more and more departments are tentatively changing their policies to limit the number of police pursuits. A popular alternative has been the use of spike strips to disable a fleeing vehicle. But since the first recorded case in 1996, nine officers have been killed in the line of duty while deploying spike strips to stop a fleeing suspect's vehicle. Five of those fatalities occurred during 2003.

Within the past year the Attorney General's office has settled $500,000 in claims against the State Patrol for deaths and injuries resulting from high-speed chase accidents. This brings the total to more than $854,000 of taxpayer dollars that have been paid out in these kinds of claims in recent years.

"High-speed chases are dangerous not only for police and suspects, but also for innocent bystanders. The Legislature should adopt a law that allows high-speed police chases only when serious felony conduct involving harm to individuals is suspected," states ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor.

On Saturday June 17, 2006, two Latino innocent bystanders killed during a mile-long police chase in Oakland ,The crash near the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard at 90th Avenue claimed the life of Salvador Nieves Jr., a 21-year-old man from Oakland who was a passenger in the Nissan that was smashed by a full-size Chevy van being pursued by police. The driver of the Nissan, 25-year-old Oakland resident Jessica Castaneda-Rodriguez, was also killed in the crash. "It was an ugly scene," said witness Ammar Silin. "I thought at the same time the people in that car, they cannot be alive because when you see the car, it was all crushed just like a piece of a can." The father of Salvador Nieves said Oakland police officers could have called off their pursuit of Bolten. and were furious at police "They haven't even approached us," Nieves said. "They haven't even said sorry for what happened. The only thing I know from the police is when they came Sunday morning, they told us, 'Your son is dead. He had an accident, and he's gone.'

In San Francisco, high speed chases are man hunt that mostly ends in death or great bodily injury to the "suspect":

On May 5, 2004, 29-year-old African American Cammerin Boyd was killed by undercover officers in San Francisco this past May as he was getting out of a car at the end of a high speed chase. Cammerin was a paraplegic from a prior accident.

Another young Black Brother, known as "Carleone" in SF Fillmore district, prior to Cammeon Boyd's murder also lost a leg after being chased in a high speed pursuit by SFPD to Oakland and shot at 32 times.

On June 29 2004, Gus Rugley, 21 yr African American Youth was shot at more than a hundred times on Alemany Boulevard, San Francisco, after what SFPD described as a high speed chase. According to the corporate press, Rugley would have opened fire at a police car. However, the autopsy report revealed that he had no gun powder traces on his skin or clothing, therefore Gus could not have used a weapon. The toxicological screen also revealed that Gus Rugley was not under the influence of alcohol or any drugs at the time of his death.

Friday, May 27, 2005 – 31 yr. African American Gina Hinton was chased by Colma PD, into a dead end in SF Crocker Amazon. PD official version: Gina backed into a police motocycle, which would have ended in shooting her twice (actually Gina has 8 bullet wounds under right arm and right breast, as she surrendered with her hands up on her dashboard). She miraculously survived the shooting. The colma Officer kept nudging her body with his foot until the paramedics came, as one would checking if the game is still alive.

On March 23 2006, Kathleen Eklund, 33 yr. Sister of mixed heritage fled CHP from Concord, until she reached a dead end on SF Santa Rosa and San Jose Avenue. According to Ltd. Gittens, she backed up into a police car, which prompted the shooting. She died a few hrs later at SFGH. Witness Mercedes Villalta approached them, testifying about what she saw from her window, changing her grand baby's pamper: Kathleen attempting to come out of her car with her hands up, helicopter hovering above, 6 police cars, officer yelling "Stop ! Stop !", another officer shooting her in the back, Kathleen falling back into the car, 5 additional shots. Mercedes formally States the victim was nowhere near any police car at any given time.

Eliminating Dangerous Police Chases
High-speed police pursuit chases can be eliminated! A simple and inexpensive solution is available! Any Police car would be able to remotely stall the engine of a pursued vehicle, so it just rolls to a stop with a dead engine, as though it ran out of gas. That is far safer than current procedures of high speed chases and ideas like tire rippers that cause the pursued vehicle to go out of control at high speed. Many people are killed every year as a result of high-speed Police pursuit chases. It seems to be getting more common that criminals try to escape rather than submitting to the authority of Police. The number of resultant high-speed chases is on the rise. Such chases have numerous inherent dangers. Both the suspect vehicle and the Police car(s) regularly go through red traffic signals and stop signs at very high speed. The suspects, the Police in the pursuit vehicles, innocent drivers and pedestrians are all at great risk of injury and death. In addition, a substantial amount of property damage often occurs. All this danger and damage and injury and death is entirely avoidable! A simple and inexpensive solution is available.:A Remote Engine Stalling Device!
A VERY simple, small radio receiver would be designed into every vehicle's main computer control circuit chip. This radio receiver would have the function of disconnecting the ignition circuit of the vehicle, effectively turning off the key of the ignition. The car would then just roll to a stop, as though it had run out of gas, and Police could apprehend the suspects.

But would this take all the fun out of the Game on San Francisco Plantation ?

As Mark Vanzi, Senator, Office of Research in Sactamento wonders in an email he sent me on 7-27: "How bizarre that is that SF chase & crash.... And he (officer Birko) didn’t even alert anyone he was in pursuit? How nuts is that?" Rest In Peace Officer Birko...No one should meet an untimely death, and we present our deepest condolences to his family. We also immensely mourn the brutal fate of Cammerin Boyd, Gus Rugley, Kathleen Eklund, and young Salvador Nieves & Jessica Castaneda-Rodriguez.
High Speed Chases have got to go !

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