LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - Last year, 41 people died as a result of high speed police-involved pursuits making 2020 the deadliest year for chases since 2006, according to an analysis of California Highway Patrol data by a Southern California news group.
The analysis also found that in the past 15 years, 476 people were killed in police pursuits, with 281 of those being drivers, 94 passengers, 91 bystanders and 10 police officers.
"My brother was killed on impact. Then my nephew was in a coma and then my sister-in-law died 20 minutes later," Linda Quinonez told CBSLA's Nicole Comstock.
Her brother, Eddie Contreras and his wife Gracie, were killed when the couple's Nissan Rogue was flipped upside down after a suspect fleeing from police during a 2019 pursuit in West Covina slammed into them.
"It's just such a loss," Quinonez said.
Pursuit related fatalities occurred in 2020 despite new policies in many police departments to limit the number of chases and associated risks.
Quinonez believes that police need a new protocol because, for some, the high speed chases are entertainment and in her words, "...have become a sideshow."
Corporal Daniel Garcia, from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, said that there's nothing entertaining about pursuits for officers. He was unwilling to speculate about why 2020 was such a deadly year for them too.
According to Garcia, drivers don't typically run over something as simple as a traffic violation. Those that do initiate a chase, he said, are usually running from more serious violations and letting them go may present a threat to the public.
"It's not just that we want to chase them until the wheels fall off," Cpl. Garcia said. "We're constantly evaluating if the need to apprehend this violator outweighs the risk to the public. So it's something we're constantly thinking of when we're behind the wheel."
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