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Was Police Pursuit To Blame In Fatal Florida-Area Crash?

Willie Hummel was recently arrested on four counts of vehicular homicide for causing a fatal wrong-way crash on I-95. Hummel was fleeing an Opa-Locka police officer who was pursuing him for making an illegal right turn.

Law enforcement is investigating whether Opa-Locka police officer Cpl. Sergio Perez improperly gave chase, contributing to the circumstances that took the lives of four people who were visiting South Florida. Hummel suffered two broken legs and was taken to jail after being released from the hospital.

Perez is on administrative leave while the police chase is being investigated. Initial reports were that he had abandoned the chase when Hummel started driving against traffic on I-95, but a recording of his discussions with dispatch during the chase indicate otherwise. Perez specifically noted that he was following Hummel, travelling north in the southbound lanes of I-95.

There is no doubt that the driver, Willie Hummel caused the fatal crash when he fled police and went the wrong way on I-95, crashing into the mini-van carrying the four victims, a brother and sister from Fort Lauderdale,. But, law enforcement is intended to provide protection, not escalate a traffic stop into a deadly motor vehicle accident.

Opa-Locka police, like Florida-Dade police, are authorized to chase another vehicle only after a serious crime has been committed, not for a simple traffic stop. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) discovered that approximately one-third of people killed in fatal police pursuits are uninvolved third parties. The study covered nine years and focused on fatal police pursuits. On average, 121 innocent bystanders – people not involved in the actual pursuit or fleeing vehicle – were killed during each of the nine years studied.

Source: CBS Florida, “Questions Raised About Police Chase That Led To Deadly Crash,” April 4, 2013

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