This is the kind of story that makes you wonder about the randomness of events. A high speed getaway of two robbery suspects, with police just beginning to give chase, ended in the death of a nun, Sister Mary Celine Graham. Sister Mary Celine, 83, died of the injuries she sustained when one of the robbery suspects plowed into a Honda and ricocheted off, hitting three pedestrians, including Sister Mary Celine.
The New York Times reports the driver, who has been identified by the police as Dyson Williams, 20, was arrested Wednesday and charged with murder and robbery. As a result of the Honda crash, and a second crash into a minivan as the driver's accomplice tried to avoid arrest, experts and bystanders have been questioning police policies regarding high-speed pursuit, especially in densely populated urban areas.
The Times reports that the NYPD policies regarding the police car chase are extensive, asking officers on the scene to consider factors such as the nature of the offense, the time of day, population density and weather. It is a basic - and must be a nearly instantaneous - cost/benefit analysis. The policy requires breaking off pursuits "whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if the suspect is not immediately apprehended," according to police guidelines.
In this case, as tempting as it may be to lay blame with officers in hot pursuit, it did not quite happen that way, according to reports. The police account, pieced together by The Times from radio transmissions and reports, makes clear that responding officers barely had time to give chase. The first crash occurred only two blocks after the pursuit began. According to police, the whole episode lasted only nine minutes. Just long enough to take a life and ruin several others.
And for what? The robbery suspects were making their getaway after stealing a BlackBerry and $23 from an 18-year-old.
- Police Deny Closely Pursuing Van in Crash That Killed Nun (New York Times)
- Nun Struck and Killed By Speeding Getaway Car, Two Others Critically Injured, Say NYC Cops (AP/CBS News)
- High-Speed Police Car Chase Fatalities Spiking in North Carolina (FindLaw KnowledgeBase)
- Hot Pursuit (FindLaw's LawBrain)
- When Personal Injuries Result in Death: Wrongful Death Cases (provided by Trolman, Glaser & Lichtman, P.C.)
- Auto Accident Injuries and Compensation (provided by Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C.)