PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. -- A Hopewell family is taking legal action after their loved one died in a police pursuit crash as an innocent, uninvolved driver on the road.
“My son is gone. This hurts," said Rosa Bassette, one month after her son's death. “Nobody knows what I’ve been going through. I’m really having a hard time with this.”
45-year-old Andre Bassette, Jr. was killed when a Prince Georgepolice chase ended in a crash in Hopewell City, and Ms. Bassette said she still has more questions than answers.
“What happened? Can you tell me anything? Nobody could tell me nothing. The only news that I got was from Channel 6 News and my lawyer here. That's all," Bassette said.
The night of July 28, Prince George Police said an officer tried pulling over Tequan Taylor for speeding and 67/45, which is considered reckless driving, near Fort Gregg-Adams.
However, Taylor fled, and the officer chased after him.
Investigation records from Hopewell Police, the agency that responded to the crash, showed that after the pursuit ensued, speeds reached up to 100 miles per hour. The pursuit crossed from Prince George into Hopewell on Oaklawn Boulevard and came to a fatal end at the intersection at Ashland Street, about 2.5 miles from where the initial traffic stop occurred.
The crash report showed Taylor failed to stop at a red light and ran into Andre's car, sending his vehicle into a utility pole. After the crash, Taylor ran away.
“My son didn’t even have a chance. Why was the police chasing this man like this?” Bassette said. "I just don't understand."
That's the question Ms. Bassette can't seem to get answered.
Prince George Police Chief Keith Early said in an email to CBS 6 that, according to police, officers can only pursue under one of these conditions:
- Upon reasonable belief that the occupant/s of the vehicle has/have committed or attempted to commit a felony crime
- The on-duty supervisor may permit a lawful police pursuit for any other extreme, unusual, situation where human life is reasonably believed to be in imminent jeopardy should police intervention not occur
“We don't have this here. We don't have a felony. There's no felony. There's no police procedure that I know of that allows, in this case for reckless driving basically for speeding, for the police to pursue," said traffic injury lawyer Virginia Tehrani, who is legally representing the Bassette family.
Reckless driving, Taylor's initial offense, is a misdemeanor.
Chief Early has declined to answer CBS 6's questions about whether extreme or unusual circumstances that would imminently jeopardize human life were present in this pursuit and whether a supervisor gave authorization to pursue. Neither the department's incident press release, Early's statements, nor Hopewell's investigative records showed any extreme or unusual situations.
Early said an internal investigation of the pursuit is now complete, but he would not share the results, citing them as a personnel matter.
However, he added, "typically, reckless driving alone would not fall within either of these two conditions" that permit officers to pursue.
"It is consistent, sadly, with the fatal chase culture that's happening in Southeast Virginia. This is not the first case that has ended up in a deadly crash based on a police pursuit," Tehrani said. "It's completely unacceptable, and how many more of these have to happen before we say this is enough?"
Tehrani said she has filed a notice of claim against Prince George County, indicating that the family intends to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
“We can't get Andre back, but what we can do is hold them accountable," Tehrani said. “I want body cam. I want dash cam. I want videos of what happened with this crash. I want the patrol records, the dispatch records. If you want to be transparent, give us those. Release them. Show the public what happened. Is there a justifiable excuse? I don't think so.”
Ms. Bassette said not only is she seeking accountability for Andre, but she also wants to bring about widespread change across the region by calling for an end to dangerous police pursuits over less serious infractions.
"I am trying to fix it where we all can get some justice. You have people out here that have lost loved ones in accidents, high speed chases," Bassette said. "This is bigger. I need closure, and I need justice."
After being on the run for about a month, the suspected driver, Taylor, was arrested and booked at Southside Regional Jail. Virginia State Police said Taylor is being held without bond on one felony count of 2nd degree murder.
VSP said the investigation remains ongoing.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.
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