High-speed police pursuits are, for the most part, unnecessary and dangerous. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one person is killed nearly every day as a result of a police chase in this country. This statistic is even higher in New Mexico, with approximately four or five people killed in police chases every year in the state, according to federal records.
Police chases often have fatal consequences for innocent bystanders. Below, we discuss the tragic case of Ted Jojola and Dely Alacántara, whose only son was killed as the result of a police chase, and what should be done to prevent similar tragedies from occurring.
Why Police Chases Are Not Worth the Risk
In 2000, Ted Jojola and Dely Alacántara’s son, Manoa, was killed in a police chase in Albuquerque. Manoa was sitting in his truck at Pan American Freeway and San Mateo Boulevard. The driver of a sports car being pursued by Albuquerque police had taken an off-ramp near Manoa’s location, sped through a red light, and struck Manoa’s truck, sending it flying 100 feet.
The police chase began after Albuquerque police received a report of shots fired at an apartment complex and the sports car’s driver, Samuel E. Gonzales, sped away from the scene. Manoa’s parents argue that no one was in danger until the police chase began:
“It sets off a chain of events that is really irreversible,” says Jojola.
This tragedy brings into question the necessity of police chases in response to low-level crimes. In the same year in New Mexico, other fatal police pursuits involved officers chasing a speeding driver, a suspected drunken driver, and an ex-con who had sped out of a parking lot.
What Should Be Done to Reduce Fatal Police Chases?
Members from our firm participated in state legislation to change the way New Mexico police agencies respond to fleeing suspects. Such legislation included the following components:
- Establish a statewide policy limiting police chases to violent felons or people who pose a grave danger to the public.
- Require police agencies to keep better records of accidents that result from chases.
- Make fleeing from a police officer a fourth-degree felony.
- Enhance the curriculum at the law enforcement academy to teach recruits about the often tragic consequences of high-speed police chases.
Law enforcement officers have immense responsibility to apprehend suspects but also to keep innocent bystanders safe. One cannot be achieved at the sacrifice of the other.
At McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry, P.A., we make it our mission to hold law enforcement officers accountable for reckless behavior or civil rights violations. If you or someone you love has been harmed by a law enforcement officer’s actions, we can help you seek justice.
Call McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry, P.A. at (505) 405-4441 to schedule a free consultation.