DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - A 16-year-old girl was killed after the car she was riding in was hit by a man running from police. The Dallas Police Department has now launched an administrative inquiry, similar to an internal investigation, into whether the officers involved in that chase followed the rules.
The day Angeles Ipina died was the same day Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent was arrested for an alleged drinking and driving accident. That day, there was no media coverage of the Ipina case. Dallas Police released a small statement on their Facebook page the night of the accident, but it said nothing about the death of a 16-year-old girl or that their officers' actions were being reviewed.
But the I-Team was tipped off to Ipina's case after we started digging into Dallas PD's recent pursuits and disciplinary action. It's the first chase in more than seven years that has resulted in the death of an innocent person.
"Honestly, I thought it was a dream," Maria Ipina, Angeles' mother, remembered.
On Friday night, December 7, 2012, Maria Ipina was driving home with her husband in the passenger seat and her daughter, Angeles, in the back.
"I don't remember the crash," Maria said.
Dallas Police officers were chasing a green Ford Explorer that same night, driven by a man named Angel Palomo. Inside the SUV was another suspect, Cesar Ramirez. Police say the men robbed someone at gunpoint, taking just a phone and a gold necklace.
"I think they just focus on getting the bad guys," Maria told us. "They forgot about the people not involved in the chases."
The chase went right through a neighborhood in northwest Dallas and lasted less than three minutes. During that time both the suspects and police officers blew through three stop signs before coming up to Webb Chapel Road. The driver never attempted to stop at the traffic light, destroying the Ipina car and killing 16-year-old Angeles.
The officers were right behind the suspect's Explorer, even hitting one of the suspects as he tried to escape. After watching the dash cam video from that night the Ipina family questioned why the officers didn't stop the pursuit earlier.
"It's just that, you know you're nearing an intersection," Diana Ipina, Angels' sister, said. "I mean, they knew, they saw the truck and the license plates. I think there could have been another way."
But the I-Team uncovered the Ipina case isn't the only one where an officers' judgment during a pursuit was later questioned.
Officer Michael Royal was chasing an alleged drunk driver in Uptown Dallas. A crime that's not pursuable under department rules. At one point, both the suspect and the officer drive the wrong way on McKinney road. A few minutes later the chase ends when the driver slams into a light pole. Officer Royal got a 1-day suspension for violating the pursuit policy.
Officer Tressie Mason was also suspended for a day after speeding through a school zone just as students were being let out. She drove the wrong way to try and catch a man accused of being involved in a domestic disturbance. Again, a crime that's not considered a pursuable offense.
"Should these officers have the mind set of 'I want to catch the bad guy?' Is that the reason they should be pursuing," CBS 11 Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal asked.
Assistant Chief Thomas Lawrence answered, "One of our beliefs is there is a clear risk to the public if these people are allowed to remain free. And that's a big part of what we're trying to do with these chases, is balance that against the risk."
Assistant Chief Thomas Lawrence is in charge of the seven patrol divisions in Dallas. He says, since implementing a new stricter pursuit policy in 2006, things have gotten better. He estimates, around that time, the department had upwards of about 400 chases a year. Compare that to the 53 chases they recorded in 2012. But he admits the Ipina case is a step backwards.
"What I will tell you is that our hearts go out to the family. That was a tragic incident and the department is doing, we're going to do everything we can do prosecute this guy to the fullest extent of the law," Assistant Chief Lawrence told us.
Six months later, the pain of losing Angeles Ipina is still constant. She was an aspiring doctor who was always smiling; the glue that brought her family together.
"I think that's she's playing hide and seek, and she's just waiting for me to find her," Maria told us. "But I can't."
The Ipina parents continue to recover from their extensive injuries. Angel Palomo, the driver of that green Explorer, was set to go on trial for murder, evading arrest, and aggravated robbery today. But his case has been moved to July.
Dallas Police tell us it could take months before their administrative inquiry is done.
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