DICKINSON, Texas -- A national expert on police chases questions whether Dickinson Police should have terminated the pursuit Sunday night that ended in a two-car collision that left six dead, including four innocent victims.
"They don't deserve to die in order to stop your suspect, it's that simple," said D.P. Van Blaricom, a retired police chief of the Bellevue, Washington Police Department.
Blaricom has written policies on police vehicular pursuits and emergency driving, and has testified in hundreds of cases for both plaintiffs and defendants.
He said the decision to chase or not should be a careful balancing act, weighing the dangers of the pursuit and the need to immediately apprehend the suspect. In the Dickinson case, Blaricom cited several red flags—Dickinson Police confirm the officer did not know at the time if suspect Juan Garcia Ahuezoteco was wanted, or what for.
Additionally, the suspect struck another motorist early on in the chase before speeding off at speeds that reached 100 miles per hour.
"That pursuit should have been terminated immediately after that first accident," Blaricom said.
He said the suspect's actions were clear, and presented a clear and present danger.
"This guy is not going to stop, and what he's doing is he's looking in the rear view mirror to see if police are still back there, and as long as you're still back there's he's going to run and that puts everybody at risk down the road that's in front of him," Blaricom said.
Dickinson's written pursuit policy is clear:
"Whenever the risk to the public or the officer outweighs the immediate need to apprehend the suspect, the officer will terminate the pursuit"
Dickinson Police Chief Ron Morales said it's pre-mature to comment until a full investigation is complete.
Meanwhile, the I-Team checked and Texas crashes after fleeing police are up 21 percent over the past three years. In 2011, there were 896 statewide. Last year the total was 1,097 according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Experts also point to research showing when police terminate a pursuit, suspects slow down in two city blocks, indicating if no one is chasing, there is no longer a need to run.
"Protect and serve means exactly what it says—protect," Blaricom said.
It was only after the deadly crash that police learned suspect Juan Ahuezoteco had an outstanding felony DWI warrant. But experts said even that wouldn't necessarily justify trying to chase someone going 100 miles an hour.