Police chases not worth risk of tragedy
by Margery Eagan
Boston Globe Columnist
“Here’s yet another question: would you prefer someone driving through Boston erratically at 40 mph, or chased by police, at 70 or 80 mph?”
May 31, 2007 Explain this, please: Because about 100 children a year are abducted and killed by strangers, we have totally revamped American childhood. Good parents won’t even let children in the back yard alone.
Yet at least that many innocent Americans, including children (some estimate two or three times as many) are killed every year in police chases. And every time I’ve written a column asking if these chases are worth it, the response is the same.
Surely I am insane.
Two innocent bystanders killed; one permanently injured
The latest police chase tragedy came early Sunday morning when Javier Morales, 29, refused to stop for a state trooper in Everett. Morales made an illegal left turn off Route 16. He had no license and feared jail time for a previous no-license arrest.
Perhaps if he faced greater jail time for refusing to stop for police a penalty many have proposed to reduce these chases Morales, weighing his options, would have made a different choice. To stop.
As it was, Trooper Joseph Kalil chased Morales stolen SUV from Everett to Somerville’s Davis Square, where Morales plowed into a cab driven by Walid Chahine, 45, a husband and father. In the backseat were musician Paul Farris, 23, and his girlfriend Katelyn Hoyt. Hoyt and Chahine [Walid Chahine died at the hospital.] are at Mass. General, critically injured. Farris is dead.
The fourth victim: Trooper Kalil, who must live with what happened for the rest of his days.
So why is it that state police here, and in many other states, chase traffic violators at all? Boston police don’t. Neither do police in many other big cities, in part because of the risk of multi million-dollar lawsuits. Boston’s pursuit standards are higher than those followed by state police: Boston is supposed to chase only violent or dangerous suspects or those driving erratically, possibly because of drugs or alcohol.
Here’s yet another question: would you prefer someone driving through Boston erratically at 40 mph, or chased by police, at 70 or 80 mph?
One more question: Why do we assume that chasing even dangerous criminals is always worth the risk of maiming or killing a pedestrian or family in a minivan?
Myth vs. Fact
The myth, by the way, is that police typically or even regularly chase the dangerous, that there’s a dead body in the trunk, says Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina, who has studied police pursuits since 1983.
The fact is, between 75 and 80 percent of chases occur after moving violations, says Alpert. They’re mostly young kids who’ve made stupid decisions. The more powerful tool for police? Turn off the lights and siren and it’s more likely the suspect will slow down.
I guess the idea of letting the bad guy get away seems un-American. Perhaps, too, the car chase is too rooted in American legend, from The French Connection to O.J. to whatever live police pursuit Fox and MSNBC can find and broadcast.
And perhaps politicians don’t want to buck police. And then there’s adrenaline: If you’ve heard a chase on a police radio, you know want I’m talking about.
Yesterday Pearl Allen, a retired music and Afro-American studies teacher at John D. O’Bryant School, said what many say who lose family to police pursuits. That if police hadn’t chased, her grandson would still be alive.
Quentin Osbourne, once a standout for the Boston Raiders Pop Warner team, was 15 when he was ejected from a Hyundai Elantra he and six friends had piled into.
The 16-year-old unlicensed driver ran a stop sign. Police chased. He drove into a brick wall.
They were just kids, his grandmother said. (The police) put on the flashing blue light. I think the driver got scared and sped away, and they just kept chasing until they crashed.
MONDAY, MAY 28, 2007
Tragedy in Boston
Paul Farris, singer of theMark, is killed in an Overnight Accident
Blogger’s note: I had planned on doing a Memorial Day tribute today, but dropped everything to write this piece. For the friends of the people hurt in this accident, to the fans of the band theMark, to anyone who ever wanted to be in a band and to touch music – who strive to live and be near creativity… This is a dark day. My thoughts go out to you. None of us live forever – cherish what you have. An important story.
TRAGEDY IN BOSTON: Paul Farris, singer of the Tuft’s alterno-rock band theMark, and his girlfriend Katelyn Hoyt were the passengers of a taxi cab struck by the driver of an SUV being chased by Massachusetts State Police. The driver was arrested at the scene. Paul was killed and Kate and the cab driver are treated for very serious injuries.
Tufts alum Paul Farris dies at 23
May 27, 2007 7:51PM
Fatal crash in Somerville ends life of 2006 graduate, musician
by Rob Silverblatt Tufts Daily > News
Tufts alum Paul Farris (LA ’06) was killed in Somerville on May 27 after a driver fleeing from the police hit a taxi he was riding in with his girlfriend. Farris was 23.
An avid music enthusiast, he was the lead singer of the respected indie band theMark, which is comprised of almost entirely of Tufts alumni. Members of the group came together while at Tufts, and in 2004 they won the Battle of the Bands and earned the right to open at the Spring Fling concert that was headlined by The Roots.
Jordan DeLiso (LA ’07), theMark’s drummer, said that Farris was the key to the band’s success. “We got most of our energy from Paul because the singer is the frontman in [a] band whether they acknowledge it or not, and he took that position even off-stage,” he said.
DeLiso remembers Farris as a truly inspirational and welcoming person who drew from a wide range of sources to write intelligent music. “[He was] constantly thinking, analyzing everything and you can really tell that in his lyrics,” he said. “Nobody I know wrote or sang like he did. His lyrics were basically like his thoughts on the world turned into a story involving mythical characters and references to Dante and all that stuff,” DeLiso said.
He said that these lyrics translated into rousing performances. “It was beautiful watching him just totally go nuts on stage and be so into what he was about and what he was singing,” DeLiso said.
Apart from his role in his band, during his senior year at Tufts Farris was also the chair of AppleJam, a student group that brings concerts to campus.
Rising junior Daniel Stern, who served as a co-chair for AppleJam this past year, echoed DeLiso’s thoughts, referring to his predecessor “an incredibly nice guy” who was “very passionate about music.”
University President Lawrence Bacow called Farris’ death the tragic end to a promising life. “It is always difficult to lose someone so young and so talented. And to lose him so senselessly only compounds the tragedy,” he said in an e-mail to the Daily. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
The car chase that led to Farris’ death began when a state trooper spotted Javier Morales, 29, of Somerville, cutting off traffic in Everett.
When the trooper tried to pull Morales over, he allegedly sped away, following a route that brought him into Davis Square and onto College Avenue. Jessica LeBlanc, Morales’ pregnant girlfriend, was in the car with him. The chase ended when Morales slammed into the cab that Farris and his girlfriend Katelyn Hoyt were in at the intersection of Kidder Avenue and Highland Road in Somerville.
According to the Somerville Journal, Morales was driving with a suspended license at the time of the accident, something of he had already been convicted on twice prior to Sunday’s accident. He has also been convicted of several other crimes including assault and battery and breaking and entering.
As of Friday morning, Hoyt and taxi driver Walid Chahine were both in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a spokesperson for the hospital’s Public Affairs Office told the Daily.
Morales and LeBlanc both survived the crash, and Morales was arraigned in his hospital room at MGH earlier this week.
According to the Boston Globe, he is charged with vehicular homicide and a litany of other offenses related to the incident.