RICHMOND, Va. -- A Richmond police officer was indicted Tuesday on involuntary manslaughter charges following an April crash that killed two teenagers. A similar fatal wreck involving a Virginia police officer changed state law more than decade ago.
RPD Officer Richard Johnson faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of reckless driving, and one count of failure to yield following the collision that killed 18-year-old Jeremiah Ruffin and 19-year-old Tracey Williams.
Johnson and another officer were responding to a burglary call when the police vehicle collided with the car driving by Ruffin at the intersection of Castlewood and Bells roads in South Richmond.
CBS 6 has not been able to independently view the security camera footage of the wreck since the criminal case remains ongoing. However, multiple businesses and homes near the intersection have them, and Williams' father told reporters he has seen the footage.
Steven Hill said in the video he saw, the RPD officers were traveling down Bells Road at a high rate of speed, with their lights on but not their siren. Hill said the officers clearly faced a red light at the intersections with Castelwood Road but did not yield the right of way.
The impact of the wreck ejected Ruffin and Williams from their vehicles, and police previously said they did not appear to be wearing seat belts.
“To walk in these shoes, it’s rough man,” Hill said. “The police officers were going really fast. Had to be going pretty fast for them to be ejected out the car.”
Back in 2008, 33-year-old Ashley McIntosh was killed when a Fairfax officer failed to engage her sirens responding to a shoplifting call. Known as “Ashley’s Law,” a 2011 bill changed state law so that law enforcement must engage their lights and sirens or yield the right of way to other drivers when responding to crime scenes.
The current law states officers may disregard traffic signals when responding to emergencies but only if their lights are engaged and sound their sirens.
Otherwise, officers must slow down to a “reasonable speed for the existing conditions, [yield] right-of-way to the driver of another vehicle approaching or entering the intersection from another direction or, if required for safety, [bring] the vehicle to a complete stop before proceeding with due regard for the safety of persons and property.”
Beyond following the state law, individual police departments generally set their own scene response protocols, according to Dana Schrad, the Executive Director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
Schrad said there really is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach for because of the regionality of Virginia. The considerations for safely responding to a crime scene, where timing really matters, differ in urban, rural, and interstate setting, she said.
Richmond Police said Tuesday that Johnson will be on unpaid leave until after the criminal process plays out.
“The circumstances surrounding this accident are unfortunate and our hearts go out to all those involved in this tragic accident. We continue to pray for the families and their healing," RPD spokesperson Tracy Walker said in a Tuesday email.
The Williams family knows this moment will not their daughter back but pray it serves a moment of reflection for other law enforcement personnel.
“No siren, they didn’t yield,” Williams’ family said Tuesday. “We know you’re trying to get to wherever you’re going, but just yield at a light. That’s it.”
Johnson was served his indictments Tuesday and booked at the Richmond City Justice Center.
Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this story. Anyone with more information can email email@example.com to send a tip.