An innocent bystander was killed in a late May SFPD car chase crash, and a child was nearly struck by an SFPD SUV in last week’s Lucca Ravioli crash, so the SF Police Commission thinks it’s high time to review the department’s pursuit policy.
Last month, 58-year-old Victor Nguyen was struck and killed by a pickup truck, and three innocent bystanders were also injured, when an SFPD car chase of a carjacking suspect ended in a violent crash into a bus stop at 16th Street and Potrero Avenue. Then last week when an SFPD SUV crashed into the former Lucca Ravioli space on Valencia Street and injured two people, the vehicle nearly struck a child.
We learn this in a Mission Local report that these two crashes are prompting the SF Police Commission to review the department’s vehicle pursuit policy. Or at least, two commissioners Mission Local spoke to say they want to discuss reviewing the policy.
“Given these last two tragic incidents we should look at whether it’s time to update our policy,” commission vice president Max Carter-Oberstone told that outlet. Commissioner Kevin Benedicto also said he would ask to place a policy review on an upcoming agenda.
In the Potrero Hill crash that killed the 58-year-old man, the car that struck and killed him was not a police vehicle. The driver of that vehicle has since been identified as 57-year-old SF resident Carlo Watson, and he was driving a city-owned SFMTA pickup truck he’d allegedly carjacked. According to KPIX, police gave chase starting at Kansas and 25th Streets in Potrero Hill. The pursuit continued to 16th and Potrero Streets, where Watson’s vehicle collided with an SUV, then both plowed into a 22-Fillmore stop.
The force of that crash then sent the pickup truck into an O'Reilly Auto Parts storefront, and (ugh) carried the four bystanders at the bus stop with it. It almost feels miraculous that only one victim was killed.
On June 2, per Mission Local, Assistant SF Police Chief David Lazar sent a department-wide email temporarily banning the use of spike strips in vehicle pursuit situations. It’s not clear whether that was related to this incident, or whether spike strips were even used in this particular chase.
In last week’s Lucca Ravioli crash, a police SUV ran a red light while pursuing a speeding suspect and then plowed into the storefront. The vehicle did not strike the child, but the child was still injured and hospitalized along with an adult victim. So not only do you have two unnecessary injuries there, but the suspect completely got away.
None of the commissioners have indicated what sort of changes, if any, might be made to the SFPD vehicle pursuit policy. Mission Local spoke with a former SFPD sergeant Carl Tennenbaum, who admitted, “There’s nothing more exciting than getting into a car chase; it’s almost like a video game come to life.”
But, Tennenbaum also added, “I’m personally not a believer in police pursuits at all.”
Image: BrokenSphere via Wikimedia Commons