12-year-old Shanizya Taft was killed in a car crash on Tuesday night in east Baltimore on East Preston Street near Aisquith Street. The driver, a murder suspect in the shooting and killing of a 15-year-old boy on Memorial Day on S. Mount Street, ran a red light and slammed into a white minivan carrying Shanizya Taft, her 4-year-old sister, and mother. Shanizya's mother and 4-year-old sister were taken to a local hospital for treatment. The mother was still in the hospital late Wednesday, while the 4-year-old had been released.
Plainclothes officers pursued the driver after spotting him nearby, but police contend there was no chase. "Our officers were initially behind this vehicle. They did initially try to stop it," said Lt. Eric Kowalczyk, Baltimore City Police. "After a short period of time, they lost sight of the vehicle. And then it was one of our patrol officers who came across the accident a short time after that."
The Baltimore Police Department's policy prohibits officers from chasing suspects in vehicles except under "exigent circumstances," such as when officers believe that failing to pursue could lead to injury or death. Before police can engage in a high-speed pursuit, agency policy says, officials must consider whether the hazards to pedestrians and other drivers are outweighed by the importance of catching the suspect. Officers are supposed to communicate with supervisors before they begin a pursuit, remain in contact, and use their lights and siren.
One reason for this is to prevent police officers from becoming involved in a traffic crash--whether with the suspect or innocent bystanders. Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor of criminology, was quoted in USA Today saying that approximately 35% - 40% of police chases end in traffic crashes. Alpert also stated that while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that police pursuits result in about 360 deaths a year, that number is likely 3 to 4 times higher.
In 2011, the mother of a man who died in a Baltimore motorcycle accident that occurred during a high-speed police chase filed a $40 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Baltimore and the police officer involved.
In September of 2013, Baltimore police conducted a criminal investigation into whether officers followed orders to end their pursuit of a sedan before it was involved in a fatal crash that killed three people.