A Huber Heights high-speed police chase that ended in Harrison Township with a death of an innocent victim was justified and in compliance with the agency’s vehicle pursuit policy, the police chief said Thursday.
Huber Heights Police Chief Mark Lightner declined to identify the police officer involved in the chase but said the officer has not been placed on leave and is not facing disciplinary action.
“We did review this pursuit, and, yes, it does conform to our pursuit policy,” he said.
The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, which could not reach next of kin, had not released the name of the man killed when the fleeing motorist reportedly in a stolen car crashed into his SUV. Huber Heights officials also had not released the name of a female passenger in the SUV who suffered life-threatening injuries.
Kyndra Shackelford, an 18-year old Dayton resident, has not been formally charged, but she could face an aggravated vehicular homicide charge, according to Montgomery County Jail records.
Shackelford, being held in jail now, sustained non-life threatening injuries, according to police. Law enforcement officers believe she was impaired by alcohol at the time of the crash.
Every pursuit is reviewed by a first-line supervisor, command staff and himself, Lightner said.
The chase started early Thursday when a Huber Heights officer saw a Chevrolet Impala that matched the description of a vehicle reported stolen from the Speedway on Miller Lane in Butler Twp. It lasted less than three minutes and reached speeds as high as 80 mph, according to Huber Heights police.
According to the police department’s motor vehicle pursuit policy obtained by this newspaper, an officer can pursue a vehicle when a driver is “clearly exhibits the intention of avoiding apprehension.”
During a pursuit, the officer must activate the vehicle’s siren and emergency lights communicate information to the dispatcher such as the reason for the pursuit, location, speed and direction of travel and vehicle description and license number.
The police department’s policy requires supervisors to monitor and evaluate the justification for the pursuit and allows them to direct, change or terminate the chase.
Lightner said the chase was justified because Shackelford’s “erratic driving” posed a great risk to other drivers. He also noted the suspect almost struck an oncoming police cruiser.
“At that point there was a whole lot more involved other that the fact that it was reported stolen. There was also the erratic driving,” he said.
After the Huber Heights officer tried to to stop Shackelford in the stolen Impala, a police pursuit ensued along Rip Rap Road. The chase ended after Shackelford ran a red light at the intersection of Wagner Ford and Needmore roads and struck a Chevy Blazer.
The SUV driver was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
“We never want these things to end the way they do,” Lightner said. “Unfortunately, in our line of work, we deal with a lot situations where bad things happen to really good people. Bad things happen to innocent people as a result of somebody else’s actions. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Deputies and police officers removed Shackelford from the car after the engine compartment caught fire.
Generally, if a law enforcement agency has a discretionary policy where the officer and management can decide whether to engage in a pursuit, an officer can chase a vehicle for any criminal violation, said Patrick Oliver, director of the criminal justice program at Cedarville University.
Oliver, whose former law enforcement career spans more than 27 years, has served as police chief for cities such as Fairborn, Grandview Heights and Cleveland. He also worked as a Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper for about more than a decade.
The safety of other drivers is one of multiple factors that should play a role in whether to engage in or continue a police chase, Oliver said.
“Safety comes before the enforcement of law,” he said.
Road and weather conditions, traffic volume, pedestrians and potential road hazards are additional factors.
“An important element of a police pursuit policy is one that if an officer wants to pursue, they get permission to pursue or get permission to continue to pursue or, in many cases, both.”
Ideally, the decision is not just up to the officer, Oliver said.
“The rationale for that is the officer directly involved is probably experiencing an adrenaline rush and may not be objective enough to make the best decision,” he said.
Shackelford was charged with aggravated menacing after allegedly threatening her sister’s boyfriend with a gun and firing shots into the air on Feb. 12., according to a police report. Shackelford blamed her sister’s boyfriend for slashing her car tires, a Dayton police report said.
Dayton police were dispatched to 1700 block of James H. McGee Boulevard for a report of shots being fired. Several apartment building residents told police they saw Shackelford firing the gun into the air.
The charge against Shackelford was dismissed earlier this month.