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DA Declines To Press Charges Against Officer Following Deadly Pursuit But Finds Decision To Chase 'Deeply Troubling'

BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) -- The District Attorney for the 17th Judicial District opted not to file charges against a Brighton Police Department officer who chased a stolen car suspect from a traffic stop. But he didn't completely exonerate him, either.

"Although the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges against the officer, I nevertheless find the officer's decision to engage in this high-speed chase deeply troubling," District Attorney Brian Mason stated in the decision letter released Thursday.

In his review of the October 26, 2021, incident, Mason specifically was critical of Officer Charles Hundley.

"I believe the officer's decision to engage in the high-speed chase was unnecessarily dangerous and a disproportionate response to the alleged criminal activity and potential risk posed by the suspect," Mason continued.

The pursuit ended with the suspect's 2011 Kia Sorento crashing at the intersection of Bridge Street and Mount Bierstadt Street. A female passenger was ejected from a pickup truck that was hit by the Kia. A male walking on a nearby sidewalk was then struck by the Kia. Both people passed away at a hospital.

The driver of the Kia, 28-year-old Nicholas Villarini, was taken into custody after the crash. He and a female passenger were treated for their injuries.

Brighton Police Chase (Nicholas Villarini, arrested, from Adams SO)
Nicholas Villarini (credit: Adams County Sheriff's Office)

BPD Officer Hundley was about a quarter mile behind Villarini's Kia at the time of the fatal collision, the review states. He was in a mark BPD cruiser running with lights and sirens. Another officers was responding in an unmarked car but also running "code."

"While Officer Hundley's pursuit was not the proximate cause of the ensuing fatal crash," DA Mason stated, "the significant safety risk inherent in the decision to pursue should have outweighed the legitimate interest in tracking down the suspect for his alleged crimes."

Earlier, Hundley had responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle. He found Villarini's Kia near the intersection of Gaviota Avenue and Goldfinch Street.

He quickly learned the Kia was stolen, turned on his overhead emergency lights, and began to approach the Kia on foot as another BPD commander drove up in an unmarked cruiser.

Villarini, according to the review, drove off, striking the front of the commander's car while making his getaway.

Hundley returned to his police car and gave chase.

"The pursuit continued through residential neighborhoods at an extremely high rate of speed for just over two minutes," the review states. "At the time the Kia collided with the Nissan, Officer Hundley's vehicle is approximately one block behind the Kia."

Investigators found the Kia's speedometer locked at 71 mph after the impact.

police line crime scene tape greeley badge generic
(credit: CBS)

The coroner's office for Adams and Broomfield counties told CBS4 that Dulce Maria Castro Perez, 21, was the vehicle passenger who died as a result of the incident. Gustavo Mosqueda Ortega, 25, was the pedestrian.

"Today has been a very difficult day for our community," Brighton PD Chief Paul Southard stated that day in a press release. "Loss of life is never easy, in this case, the loss of people who were going about their everyday lives. Our hearts are heavy for the families and friends of both individuals whose lives were tragically cut short, as well as the other victims of the crash."

Mason's prosecutors have formally charged Villarini with nine counts, including two each of First Degree Murder and Vehicular Eluding resulting in death.

Villarini was scheduled for arraignment Thursday, but his court hearing was postponed until June 16.

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