PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va -- A grieving mother is searching for answers, nearly three weeks after her son died in a police pursuit crash.
“It just tears me to pieces. I’m devastated," Rosa Bassette said. “He was an innocent bystander."
Andre Bassette, 45, was killed after a high-speed chase ended in a collision the night of July 28.
It started after a Prince George County police officer tried stopping suspected driver Tequan Taylor's pickup truck for reckless speeding. Police said Taylor was clocked going 67 mph in an area with a speed limit of 45 mph.
However, police said Taylor didn't stop, officers pursued, and Taylor crashed into Andre's car, killing him. Taylor then ran away after the crash.
Father killed in crash, police seek driver: 'He's free and my son is gone'
Ms. Bassette said she has received limited information thus far from Prince George Police regarding the pursuit.
“I don't understand why Prince George Police was doing a high-speed chase out of their jurisdiction," Bassette said.
She requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, Prince George Police's incident report.
But on Wednesday, she received a letter dated Aug. 9 from the county attorney stating the report was exempt from disclosure. The county cited an ongoing criminal investigation for its reasoning to withhold the record.
"I'm looking to hear from Prince George, and nobody has reached out to me. I need some answers," Bassette said.
However, she did receive information from Hopewell Police, which had a crash report on file since the fatal collision happened within city limits.
According to a Hopewell officer narrative report, a Prince George officer initiated the traffic stop of Taylor's truck by the Sisisky Gate at Fort Gregg-Adams. Taylor began to pull over but then sped away.
After the pursuit began, the report showed Taylor reached estimated speeds up to about 100 mph on Oaklawn Boulevard. A second officer then joined the pursuit, and it continued through the City of Hopewell until Taylor crashed into Andre's car, causing it to slam into a utility pole.
The crash report stated Taylor failed to stop at the red light at the Ashland Street intersection, which is about 2.5 miles down the road from where the initial traffic stop occurred, when he collided with Andre.
“When speeds get that high, the risk gets exponentially higher. If someone wrecks, somebody’s going to die," said VCU criminal justice professor and policing researcher William Pelfrey. “It’s very rare that a police agency will authorize the continuation of a pursuit in a traffic area with that kind of speed when the initial offense was a traffic offense.”
The Prince George County Police Department has a policy that governs when officers should and should not engage in pursuits. The policy states it is designed to protect public safety "since vehicle pursuits create the potential in which officers, citizens, and/or the suspect may be killed or seriously injured."
The policy, obtained by CBS 6 through a Freedom of Information Act request, states pursuits are only allowed for one of two reasons:
- The occupant of the vehicle is believed to have committed or attempted to commit a felony crime before the pursuit
- The driving behavior after a pursuit should not establish the "felony crime" required for authority to pursue
- An on-duty supervisor provides explicit authorization of a pursuit via radio broadcast due to extreme, unusual situations where human life is in imminent jeopardy
In the July 28 chase, the initial traffic stop for reckless speeding was considered a misdemeanor. Police have not yet answered whether a supervisor gave approval of the pursuit.
“It’s not clear that this pursuit aligned with organizational policy until we get that piece of information," Pelfrey said.
According to policy, officers are also supposed to consider many circumstances during a pursuit including:
- Potential danger to the public
- Reckless operation of the vehicle
- Population density and amount of traffic
- Likelihood that the fleeing suspect can be apprehended later
Additionally, officers "shall not engage in pursuit" after suspects who flee from traffic stops for a traffic violation, per policy.
If a pursuit travels into another jurisdiction, a supervisor must authorize its continuance.
Pelfrey said he considered Prince George's policy to be a "discouragement policy" which means "police should engage in pursuit only when absolutely necessary."
"The research is overwhelmingly consistent that pursuits are very dangerous," Pelfrey said. “The vast majority of pursuits should not happen. In those cases, a license plate, a description of the suspect, a description of the vehicle is sufficient for the police to go find that suspect later on.”
As Ms. Bassette continues to grieve, she said she won't feel closure until the suspect is caught and police answer her questions.
“My son is dead, and I don’t have answers. I need answers for my son. His ashes just came back yesterday, and I still don’t have no answer to my son’s death," Bassette said.
CBS 6 asked Prince George County Police whether the pursuit was aligned with department policy. Chief Keith Early provided the following statement:
"The Prince George County Police Department is actively conducting an administrative investigation into the circumstances related to this pursuit/crash. At the conclusion of our investigation, any shortcomings, if any, will be internally addressed. I will add, the person responsible for this tragedy, and the person who is currently absconding justice, will be arrested. My hope is that that this person will be prosecuted to fullest extent the law allows."
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