Driver killed after brief 2018 police pursuit was short, had to stand on gas, brake pedals: ASIRT witness

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A 27-year-old man killed failing to navigate a turn at high speed in 2018 was “very short” and had to stand on the pedals of the stolen truck he was driving, says a report from the province’s police watchdog.

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The Alberta Serious Response Team (ASIRT) was called in to investigate Sept. 30, 2018, after an attempted traffic stop by Edmonton city police, said a Tuesday news release.

On that day, around 9:49 p.m., two officers were patrolling in a marked vehicle around 84 Street and 106 Avenue. A routine check of the licence plate on a Dodge Ram truck driving ahead of them came back clean but they followed the driver when he proceeded onto a service road to avoid a red light. On the service road, the truck sped up, passing a slower vehicle that had to move over to let it pass, said the report released Tuesday by ASIRT.

“The truck then rolled through a stop sign at 90 Street and Jasper Avenue,” continues the report.

“Based on the driving pattern, the officers chose to attempt a traffic stop and activated their emergency lights. The truck accelerated rapidly away from them. The traffic at this time was light and there were no pedestrians. The truck continued to accelerate and began to pull away from police. The truck then drove through a red light at the intersection of 92 Street and Jasper Avenue.

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“Since the officers considered this to be high-risk behaviour, as they approached the red light, they decided to terminate the pursuit. The officer driving the police vehicle slowed the vehicle while the other officer radioed in that they had attempted to stop a vehicle that was involved in a criminal flight. As they did so, they saw the tail lights of the Dodge disappear on Jasper Avenue, followed by a sudden power outage and plume of dust in the distance.”

ASIRT investigators concluded that after the truck went through the red light, the driver continued at a high rate of speed and “appeared either to lose control or fail to negotiate a left turn onto Alex Taylor Road. As a result, the truck hit a utility pole at that intersection, causing extensive structural damage to the truck, including shearing off the driver’s side of the cab from the rest of the vehicle.”

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The two officers found the driver fatally injured while a 21-year-old passenger had to be extricated from the wreckage by emergency crews. The woman, said the ASIRT report, kept repeating: “I told him to stop, I told him to stop.”

The truck came to rest in the yard of Alex Taylor School, on the corner of Alex Taylor Drive and Jasper Avenue; the road was dry and clear, and the driver’s side of the cab was located metres away from the rest of the vehicle.

Examination of the stolen truck’s event data recorder, similar to a black box on aircraft, showed the truck was going 152 km/h when it went through the red light at 92 Street. The pressure applied to the accelerator pedal was 100 per cent, concludes the ASIRT report.

“Accordingly, the maximum speed of the truck was approximately 160 km/h just prior to the collision, and the truck collided with the pole at approximately 104 km/h. At the time of collision, the driver was not wearing a seat belt,” said the report.

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The whole ordeal, from the time the officers saw the truck to the fatal crash, took roughly two minutes.

“The police vehicle reached a maximum speed of 109 km/h while travelling on Jasper Avenue but, at the time of the collision, it had slowed considerably, consistent with the actions described by the officers. The independent GPS data revealed unequivocally that there had been a marked change in the driving of the police vehicle consistent with slowing down and terminating the pursuit in the seconds before the collision,” said ASIRT.

The passenger, who suffered a broken arm in the crash, later told investigators that she had been with the driver, a close friend, at the Coliseum LRT and they had picked up the truck on 75 Street. She said the driver had a key to the truck and she did not know it had been stolen.

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“She indicated that her friend was very short and drove by standing on the pedals and holding onto the steering wheel. When he started to drive very fast, she asked what he was doing and told him to stop. She stated that he replied that police were following him so he couldn’t stop. She indicated she saw police behind them. She recalled the driver attempted to make a turn and the next thing she mentioned was noticing her arm hurt and part of the truck and the driver were both “gone,”” said the report.

It was later determined that the truck key had been stolen from a second vehicle parked in the area. The owner reported the vehicle stolen roughly an hour and a half after the fatal crash.

As a result of the investigation, ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson, has cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing.

“While the death of the man and the injury of the young woman in the passenger seat was both tragic and criminal, responsibility for this single motor vehicle collision rests with the man operating the stolen motor vehicle,” said the ASIRT report.

ASIRT’s mandate is to investigate any Alberta police cases that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.

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