Lawyer says NJ cops are ‘brainwashed’ into chasing suspects no matter what
TRENTON — Does New Jersey need more regulations about high-speed police pursuits?
Robin Lord, an attorney for the family of a Trenton woman who was killed by when a drug suspect who was fleeing police rammed into her car, thinks so and is petitioning state Sen. Shirley Turner to propose legislation banning chases in residential neighborhoods for non-violent offenses.
Deja Farrior-Quinones was killed Sept. 12 after Chandler Heaviside, of Jackson, ran a red light at an intersection, police said. The State Police said he bought drugs in Trenton's West Ward. Police pursued Heaviside on several roads and into Hamilton, where they said they gave up the chase more than a mile before Heaviside hit Farrior-Quinones.
"(Police) claim the pursuit was called off 1.8 miles before the crash when in fact we have videos showing police clearly pursuing the vehicle with their lights on after their supervisor supposedly called it off," Lord said.
The state Attorney General's New Jersey Police Vehicular Pursuit Policy says chases are limited to first or second-degree offenses.
"Deciding whether to pursue a motor vehicle is among the most critical decisions made by law enforcement officers. It is a decision which must be made quickly and under difficult, often unpredictable circumstances," the policy says.
The policy puts the responsibility of starting a pursuit on the violator, but "the officer’s decision to pursue should always be undertaken with an awareness of the degree of risk to which the law enforcement officer exposes himself and others."
There are a number of techniques that can be used in a chase ,including parallelling, roadblocks, boxing in and deflating the tires of the vehicle.
Lord said State Police are "brainwashed" into pursuing all suspects.
"Basically, get your man at all costs," she said Wednesday, adding that contradicts the policy instructing officers to "give first aid to the injured, and if necessary call a doctor."
According to Lord, witnesses told her that after the crash between Heaviside and Farrior-Quinones the State Police officers continued chasing Heavside, "leaving her in the vehicle."
"Death-by-auto simply means if you operate a motor vehicle recklessly and somebody dies, you're responsible. In my mind, these troopers, by pursuing somebody for a non-violent offense, a junkie making a buy off the street, for 14 miles, it's operating a motor vehicle recklessly and they should be responsible for the death of Deja," Lord said.
"Heaviside is in jail and charged with causing her death, absolutely. But they are equally responsible for causing her death. If they never pursued him he would not have driven like a mad person through the city of Trenton and Hamilton."
Lord has started the process of filing a civil lawsuit against State Police.
Ocean County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Al Della Fave, a former prison guard and a local and state police officer, thinks the Attorney General's guidelines are "adequate and beyond" in already requiring any pursuit that endangers the public to be called off.
"Police officers have to use discretion and have to be able to act on their discretion because no two events are ever the same. Every single one has its own special nuance in terms of what the officer is responding to. It's real easy to armchair quarterback after the fact, but when you're in the heat of it making split-second decisions it's a whole different situation."
On a GoFundMe page, the family wrote "our angel was taken from us, and at the hands of reckless law enforcement, and careless criminals, we must make them pay!"
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