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Detroit officers suspended, could face charges in high-speed chase death

detroit police car
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Detroit Police Chief James Craig says a high-speed chase that ended with a teen’s death Monday was an “egregious incident” that “never should have happened.”

Craig has already suspended the two officers involved in the pursuit, which ended in a collision that killed the 19-year-old driverand injured a 67-year-old man.

Craig says dashcam video shows the officers pursuing the car through a residential neighborhood in the city’s Ninth Precinct over an alleged traffic infraction.

That in itself is a violation of Detroit police policy, which only allows officers to engage in high-speed chases when pursuing suspected violent felons.

And even then, Craig says, they’re supposed to notify dispatchers and consult with commanding officers. That never happened in this case.

The officers were in a marked patrol car, but only used their lights and sirens for part of the chase. They apparently left the scene after the deadly crash, only to return a few minutes later after a 911 call.

“Not certain if the car had lost control, or involved in a collision, the officers opted to go in another direction,” said Craig, who reviewed the dashcam footage. “They shut their lights off [and] went into another direction.”

For now both officers, who have been with Detroit Police for three years, have been suspended with pay. Craig says that’s all he has the authority to do, though he’s asking Detroit police commissioners to make that without pay at their meeting later this week.

In the meantime, “It was my decision that we would launch not only an internal investigation, but a criminal investigation,” said Craig. He declined to comment further on either investigation, but says the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is already involved.

This is the second time in less than two months that a teenager has died as a result of a high-speed police chase in Detroit.

15-year-old Damon Grimes crashed his ATV and died after a Michigan State Police trooper tased him during a high-speed chase through a Detroit neighborhood, also in the Ninth Precinct.

That trooper resigned from MSP. Two more troopers are under investigation for their roles in the incident.

Michigan State Police launched a review of the department’s high-speed chase policy as a result of Grimes’ death, and pledged MSP troopers on patrol in the city of Detroit would follow Detroit Police chase policy in the meantime.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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