Monday, August 10, 2009


Police in Dinuba, California, southeast of Fresno, were chasing a car Saturday afternoon for a traffic infraction. The chase ended with five children dead and their parents seriously injured. Four of the children - ages 1, 3, 4 and 7 - were ejected and died at the scene. The fifth child - age 8 - died later at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. The three adults in the fleeing car were also killed.

The Dinuba tragedy came less than three months after another police chase ended in the deaths of several children. Last May, in Philadelphia, two men stealing a motorcycle at gunpoint fled the scene of the crime, one on the stolen motorcycle, the other sped away in a car with the police in hot pursuit. The fleeing car jumped a curb in front of a row house, striking and killing three young children - ages 7, 5 and 11-months - and the 11-month-old baby's mother. Later, the Philadelphia police commissioner claimed that the police got stuck in traffic and were not in sight of the car when it struck the children.

In Dinuba, the police were chasing a car that, unknown to them, had been stolen during a carjacking. In Philadelphia, the police knew they were pursuing a couple of felons. Both of these chases, as well as many others, have led to a hue and cry for an end to police car chases.

Many police agencies have instituted a policy that requires its officers to stop pursuing any fleeing vehicle at the moment a chase becomes a danger to the public. Now, that doesn’t make any sense - from the get-go, every chase on a city street or on a busy highway constitutes a danger to the public. In effect, if carried out to the letter, those policies would prohibit all car chases, even those of dangerous felons.

Whenever a car flees from the police for a traffic violation, the officer has no way of knowing whether the driver is just trying to keep from getting a ticket or whether the driver is a fleeing felon trying to keep from getting caught and going to prison. In either case, an officer’s instinct to catch a crook kicks in and it is unrealistic to expect him not to engage in a chase.

The real problem with police chases is that we treat the fleeing driver much too lightly. In "Evading Arrest By Fleeing In A Car Should Be Made A Felony" (5-23-09), I wrote that "when a driver attempts to evade arrest, he turns his automobile into a deadly weapon. A person who points a gun at another is committing a felony – aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. And that is exactly what a fleeing driver is doing. The time is way past due for a change in our laws. Evading arrest by fleeing in a car should not be treated as a misdemeanor - it should be made a felony the same way that pointing a gun at someone is a felony."

When a handgun is carried in a holster, whether by a cop or by a licensed citizen, it is a benign piece of machinery. But when that gun is pointed at some person, it is a deadly weapon. When a car is driven carefully and defensively at a reasonable speed, it too is a benign piece of machinery. However, when that car is driven recklessly, like in a street race or in fleeing from the police, it too is a deadly weapon. Anytime a driver flees from the police he is aiming a deadly weapon at everyone in his path and that's why he must be treated in the same way as anyone who points a gun at another person.

Recently, the Chicago Police Department instituted a policy authorizing their officers to fire at a fleeing car if its occupants were suspected of being involved in a felony. ["Chicago Police Were Getting It Right Before City Council Stepped In" (7-30-09)] However, the Chicago city council quickly nipped that new policy in the bud, fearing the probability of lawsuits if anyone were to be injured or killed. Actually, I thought it was a very good policy. I guess the city council never considered that whenever anyone gets hurt or killed as the result of a police chase, the police and the city are going to get sued anyway.

The only good thing that came out of the Dinuba police chase is that the three assholes in the fleeing car which killed the five children were themselves killed. Damn good riddance! The latest report on that tragedy follows:


CBS 5 San Francisco
August 10, 2009

FRESNO --- A fifth child has died after a stolen car fleeing police in California's Central Valley crashed into a pickup, bringing the death toll to eight.

Dinuba police say the Dodge Neon that carried the fleeing suspects had been carjacked. When an officer tried to pull the vehicle over for a traffic infraction Saturday afternoon, it led authorities on a chase.

The car ran a stop sign and slammed into a pickup carrying a couple and their five children. No one in the truck was wearing seat belts.

Carlos and Jennifer Salazar are in the hospital with moderate to major injuries. Four of their young children were killed at the scene and a fifth, 8-year-old Carlos Eric Salazar, died at the hospital Sunday.

Authorities have not identified the three dead suspects.

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