POLICE CHASES: 80 percent end in capture, 15 percent in crash - New York News

POLICE CHASES: 80 percent end in capture, 15 percent in crash

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This week, an innocent 20-year-old Wisconsin man was killed by a suspected drunk driver fleeing police. Not long after the crash, the second-guessing began -- and FOX 9 News dove into the numbers.

Yia Her, 43, had a BAC of .16 -- twice the legal limit -- and his driver's license was suspended when he ran a red light in downtown Minneapolis and slammed into side of the car driven by Brody Sotona. Now, Her is facing two felony counts of fleeing police in a motor vehicle resulting in injury or death.

Sotona was killed in the crash, and his passenger, Connor Macklin, is still in critical condition.

Her remains jailed with bail set at $500,000. If convicted, he faces a potential sentence of 14 years in prison; however, if Macklin cannot recover from his injuries, the potential sentence may double.

Yet, Sotona's family has publicly wondered whether the officer who chose to chase Her from Interstate 94 into the heart of the city isn't also partially to blame. Prosecutors don't believe so, saying the blame rests with the driver who fled.

"Bottom line, this officer didn't cause the death," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "Her caused the death, and that's why he's going to do big time."

It's still unknown how fast Her and the trooper were traveling, but the impact of the crash was tremendous. Sotona's car was struck broadside in the intersection of 4th Street and Central Avenue, and the vehicle was pushed half a block. Days later, debris can still be found at the scene.

A nearby surveillance camera captured footage of the Sotona's car as it careened to the curb. Before the dust even settled and before police arrived to check on the victims, a man came up to the driver's side window, using his cell phone as a flashlight to check on the condition of those inside.

Once the bystander realized how bad the crash was, he walked back to tell his friends who had been walking to the area. By the time he got back, police were at the scene and asked him to step back.

Scenes like the one that unfolded on Monday are part of the dilemma of police chases, and whether or not to pursue is a question Minnesota officers have grappled with.

Statewide, 15 percent of all police pursuits led to some kind of unintentional collision or crash last year. Out of all pursuits, the suspect is captured 80 percent of the time. Only 11 percent get away. In the other 9 percent of chases, the officer involved or the supervisor calls off the pursuit because it's simply too dangerous to continue.

During the Monday night chase, no Minnesota State Patrol supervisor was on duty. Neil Melton, with the Police Officer Standards and Training Board, said he believes the supervisor's role is "absolutely critical."

According to Melton, having a second set of ears listening to the chase over radio is essential.

"They get the sense the officer's adrenaline is up -- voice is changing … it may be time to step in because the officer gets this tunnel vision," Melton explained.

Melton says an officer can even lose sight of why they're pursuing in the first place. More than half the time, pursuits start with a simple traffic violation. Only 9 percent of chases are for drunk driving, and 8 percent are for a felony.

However, numbers can't explain away the grief, the guilt, or even the shame of the bystander even if only one man may truly be to blame in the end.

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