San Antonio police chased a drug suspect along an interstate last week until the suspect smashed into another car containing a family of six. The car crash killed one of the family's sons and hospitalized three other children with severe injuries, raising questions regarding whether high speed chases are worth the risk.
The pursuit began after police spent several weeks staking out a drug den. Last week, officers accelerated the investigation and began stopping all vehicles that left the large rural property. The primary suspect tried to flee in an SUV, causing a policewoman to follow him. After the officer received permission to pursue him, the suspect took off down Interstate 35 at extremely high speeds.
While weaving through other traffic, the SUV was able to break the police officer's line of sight long enough to exit the Interstate. The policewoman spotted him again, prompting the suspect to make a U-turn and, still dodging other vehicles, drive in the wrong direction against opposing traffic.
At this point, the SUV hit the family's Volvo while driving faster than 80 miles per hour. The crash destroyed their car, injuring three children between the ages of four and three months. The impact killed a 3-year-old boy.
Tragic incidents like this raise the question of when and to what extent hot pursuit is appropriate. Is it worth running an enormous risk of injury to bystanders, other motorists, and police officers to apprehend a drug suspect? This case happened to involve almost 3,000 pounds of marijuana, representing a massive bust. But the capture came at a very high cost.
Source: My San Antonio, "Drug stakeout preceded fatal police chase," Eva Ruth Moravec and Guillermo Contreras, Sept. 21, 2012