DETROIT (WWJ) - Two children are dead and three others are hospitalized after being struck by a vehicle that was fleeing from police in Detroit.
According to police, the situation unfolded around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in an east side neighborhood near Warren Avenue and East Outer Drive.
At a stoplight, police say, two officers spotted a red Chevrolet Camaro with two men inside — and one of them brandished a handgun. Officers activated their siren and attempted to pull the vehicle over, but the suspects took off and a chase ensued — reaching speeds of up to 95 per hour on residential streets, according to police.
The Camaro was reportedly driving at such a high rate of speed, officers lost sight of it at one point. Police say the officers were calling off the chase when they saw smoke ahead. The fleeing vehicle had crashed into the front porch of a home near Frankfurt and Nottingham, where several kids were playing outside.
"As they got closer, they saw two children laying in the roadway," Police Chief James Craig told reporters. "They stopped, got out, made efforts to resuscitate both children who were in the roadway, then placed them in their police vehicle and they were transported to the hospital. As other officers responded, they could see additional children were also struck by this fleeing vehicle. They were immediately placed in the police vehicle and transported."
Two children, a 6-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl, were declared dead at the hospital. Three other children, ages 3, 5 and 7, were hospitalized. Late Thursday afternoon, Craig said, the 3 and 5-year-olds were expected to be released from the hospital soon, while the 7-year-old — a boy — remained in critical condition.
The fleeing vehicle also struck a 23-year-old woman, who was taken to the hospital in serious condition.
Craig said preliminary reports indicate that his police officers were in pursuit and a supervisor at dispatch was trying to call off the chase. Whether he connected remains unclear.
"If there's a pursuit, or any other critical incident, when other officers or units are trying to broadcast information, primary units sometime overtakes that. That can happen. We're still looking into that," Craig said.
"Our supervisors are expected, by policy, to monitor and if necessary, engage, and stop the pursuit. Preliminarily, when I met with the supervisor, he made several attempts to go on the air - to stop the pursuit."
"I will tell you that, preliminary, we've gone down the communications to verify whether or not the supervisor's request was heard. We did not pick that up," Craig added.
Following the chase — which lasted about 75 seconds — the driver of the Camaro, a 29-year-old parole absconder, and his 26-year old passenger were arrested without further incident. The passenger suffered a broken arm and hip.
"I'm very concerned, certainly, about the families. Our prayers and hearts go out to the families," said Craig. "And our officers are certainly struggling in the aftermath of this situation."
Darius Andrews, father of the critically injured 7-year-old, had a message for the chief.
"Don't like, don't lie. Tell the media the truth," Andrews said. "You did not stop it, you pursued it. And, not only that, when you're doing a chase, yes you have to do your job. If they're flashing a gun, yes you have to do what you have to. But when it comes to a residential street —let it go."
"If I said last night that it was called off - I certainly stand corrected; the supervisor told me last night he made several attempts - certainly there was some distance between the police vehicle and the vehicle being pursued," said Craig during an interview Thursday. "Then at some point they saw the plumb of smoke and as they got closer to the location - that's when the officers observed two children."
A crowd of nearly 100 people had gathered around the crash scene as police investigated, according to reports.
Further information on the suspects was not immediately released.
The incident remains under investigation.
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