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Alleged Cell Phone Violation Leads to Fatal Police Chase

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that at about 6:00 o'clock last evening, a man was killed in a fatal car accident when he was struck by a pickup truck driver who was trying to escape from the police. According to news reports, the high-speed police chase began when a police officer saw the driver of the pickup truck talking on his cellular phone while driving.

Because of the serious risk to innocent bystanders during a high speed police chase, most California police departments have guidelines to inform officers when a high speed chase is acceptable. While dangerous, it may make sense in some situations to chase a very dangerous individual who poses an imminent threat to the community if not apprehended. It is difficult to imagine that a cell phone violation fits into the category of crimes so serious that a dangerous high speed chase is warranted.

Law enforcement officials say that the incident began when a patrol officer saw the driver of a white pickup truck talking on his cell phone while driving. The officer tried to pull the truck over, but the driver of the pickup turned down a residential street, leading to a high-speed chase through the neighborhood.

At an offramp intersection the pickup truck plowed into a BMW sedan driven by a man in his 40s. The driver of the sedan died at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck tried to escape on foot after crashing his truck, but the police officer was able to catch him in a nearby front yard.

The police department is attempting to defend itself from public criticism regarding the fatal crash. The decision to engage in a high speed pursuit through a residential neighborhood for a cell phone violation remains under investigation.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle "Parolee rams car during police chase, kills driver," Henry K. Lee, Oct. 26, 2011