A police pursuit has led to a deadly Anaheim car accident killing one man and seriously injuring at least three others, including the suspects who were being pursued. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, Anaheim police were chasing two assault suspects who had beaten up a man earlier during the evening of June 15, 2009. When police arrived at the scene of the fight, the two men drove away in a red truck and the officers gave chase. Officials said the suspects were driving anywhere between 85 and 100 mph during the half-mile chase.
The pursuit ended when the truck traveling west on Crescent Avenue blew through a red light on Magnolia Avenue colliding with two vehicles — a Toyota Camry and a grey truck. The impact of the crash pushed the red truck into a palm tree and the other two cars into an apartment complex. A man in the grey truck died in this multiple car crash and a woman in the Camry suffered serious personal injuries. The two suspects in the red truck are in critical condition. The identity of the deceased car accident victim has not yet been released.
My heart goes out to the two unsuspecting “bystanders” — the two motorists who had just been going about their business, when within a fraction of a second, they get struck down in this horrific car accident by some negligent driver. I offer my deepest condolences to family of the man who died in this car accident. I also offer my best wishes to the woman who was critically injured and hope she has a quick and complete recovery. Please keep them in your prayers.
I trust the two suspects who initiated this pursuit will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. These men not only put themselves and other motorists in harm’s way, but also put the lives of our police officers at risk by leading them on this dangerous pursuit. However, the question that needs to be asked here is whether Anaheim police did the right thing by getting involved in this Orange County high-speed chase. Was it necessary for police in this case to pursue these suspects putting the lives of other innocent people on the line? How serious was the initial assault involving these two suspects? We don’t know whether someone was seriously hurt in the initial incident that triggered this deadly chase.
California law provides immunity to police departments that have adopted a “vehicle pursuit policy.” This is a written policy, which states that the department has rules and regulations when it comes to police pursuits and trains their officers periodically on these matters. Such police departments are immune from liability for civil damages for personal injuries or death resulting from the pursuit to the suspect or to an innocent bystander. This law most likely protects the Anaheim Police Department from liability. But it does nothing to protect the rights of the victims, in this case, the deceased man and the woman, who has suffered serious personal injuries.
There’s no question that police officers have a duty to apprehend dangerous criminals. In most of these cases, police officers do a commendable job. However, there needs to be a balancing test between the danger to the public and the requirement to apprehend a suspect. Our justice system should not allow officers to engage in high-speed chases without weighing the good that comes from catching a suspect against the safety of innocent bystanders who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The family of the deceased victim and the injured victim would be well-served to consult experienced Orange County personal injury attorneys, who can give them more information about the law and their legal rights.