Pursuit safety group says SDPD chase put public at risk - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Pursuit safety group says SDPD chase put public at risk

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Driver Jose Luis Navarro, 40, led police on a hour-long pursuit before being shot and killed by officers Driver Jose Luis Navarro, 40, led police on a hour-long pursuit before being shot and killed by officers

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- A national safety organization is speaking out about a high-speed chase that lasted nearly an hour, and ended with San Diego police shooting the driver in the southeastern San Diego community of Mt. Hope.

The chairman of PursuitSAFETY told CBS News 8 that the chase put the public at risk and should have been called off on the morning of January 9.

Instead, it continued for nearly an hour through residential neighborhoods as the driver, an ex-con named Jose Luis Navarro, raced by elementary schools, ran red lights, and repeatedly drove on the wrong side of roads.

In the end, San Diego police officers shot and killed Navarro, 40, after he allegedly flashed a handgun while stopped in the 800 block of 41st Street.

"The fact that they were actually chasing the vehicle for up to an hour makes no sense whatsoever," said Jonathan Farris, the PursuitSAFETY chairman.

"How many people were put at risk in an hour?" he said. "Most chases last five minutes, or ten minutes max; an hour, to me, seems insane."

The Madison, Wisconsin resident knows all too well about the dangers of high speed pursuits. His 23-year-old son, Paul Farris, was killed in 2007 in a Boston suburb when a driver being chased by state troopers plowed into a taxicab Paul was taking home.

"It could be your son next, and your view of the world will change, and your view of police pursuits will most definitely change," said Farris.

The PursuitSAFETY  group is trying to prevent tragedies like the one in Mira Mesa in 1999, when a local mother, June Meng, was struck and killed by a San Diego police vehicle chasing a robbery suspect.

The collision resulted in $1.95 million court settlement against the city of San Diego.

This recent chase began in Webster at 8:30 in the morning, after an officer noticed Navarro using a cell phone while driving, officials said.

The pursuit continued through several neighborhoods south of Interstate 8, including Paradise Hills, Bonita and National City.

"At the end of the day, the burden to protect the innocent has to fall on the police because the guy who's running does not give a damn," said Farris. "He doesn't care about your family. He doesn't care that he's blowing through an intersection at 75 miles per hour."

Cell phone video of the chase recorded by CBS News 8 shows Navarro running a red light on Imperial Ave. while driving an orange, Saturn sedan.

The video then shows eight San Diego police vehicles actively chasing Navarro, all of them crossing against the same red light with lights and sirens blaring.

The pursuit also passed by Morse High School and two elementary schools.

SDPD has a written pursuit policy that says, "All field supervisors, the Field Lieutenant, the Watch Commander and the initiating/pursuing officers have the authority to terminate a pursuit when the potential safety risks outweigh the need for apprehension."

The policy also mandates, "Only two units shall be actively involved in a pursuit unless a field supervisor, Field Lieutenant, or the Watch Commander approves additional units."

San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne declined to be interviewed or answer questions for this report. A SDPD spokesperson arranged an interview with a police academy training officer instead.

"We have to look at what the risk factors are and if it is getting too dangerous we tell them to terminate the pursuit," said SDPD Sgt. Kevin Rausis, who trains officers on pursuit policy and safety techniques at the academy.

Sgt. Rausis said he was not familiar with the facts of the Navorro chase, which remains under review by SDPD.

"I wasn't there. There were supervisors at the scene. Maybe they felt that it was safe to continue and that they were chasing a bad guy that needed to be caught."

Following the pursuit, SDPD put out a news release that said Navorro's "vehicle fit the description of a suspect vehicle wanted in connection to a double shooting that occurred on January 6, 2014, in the 4400 block of Logan Avenue."

In an interview with XETV, family members of Jose Navarro said they did not believe he was involved in the Logan Ave. shooting.

"If this is now a suspect that's believed to be armed, we have to weigh the apprehension of that suspect for public safety purposes, versus the risk of the pursuit itself," said Sgt. Rausis.

No innocent bystanders were injured during the hour-long chase.


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