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Crime

Durham police drove 75 mph and the wrong way during fatal chase, report says

Durham

During an 11-minute fatal police chase of a stolen car near downtown Durham in early August, officers went the wrong way on a one-way street and reached speeds of 75 mph in other areas, according to a city report.

But the officers didn’t violate any policies during the Aug. 2 chase, which ended in a crash that killed a 24-year-old Durham County detention officer, says the report, which the Herald-Sun obtained from the city manager.

The report outlines concerns police had about carjackings that day, provides some details about police actions during the chase and explains how those actions are in line with police department policy.

“It was determined that officers involved operated with due regard for safety of others while engaged in this incident,” the report states. “The investigation has not revealed any policy violation on part of officers involved.”

“We all regret where it ended up,” said City Manager Tom Bonfield, but the officers’ judgment at the time considered that it was the second carjacking that involved these individuals, he said. Police believed they needed to take more aggressive action to try to stop the vehicle, he said.

Two Honda Accords had been stolen at gunpoint that day, according to the report. Officers attempted to stop one of the vehicles near the intersection of of Elizabeth and Ramseur streets downtown, according to police.

The officers began to pursue the vehicle when the driver, later identified as 33-year-old Tomaris Parker, didn’t stop. Their actions were in line with a policy that allows vehicle pursuits when an officer believes the person has committed a violent felony, including armed robbery, the report says.

Two patrol cars were involved in the chase, which traveled opposite the flow of traffic on the downtown loop’s Ramseur Street for about 40 seconds. Other vehicles on the street were to the right, according to the report, “allowing a clear lane of travel for the pursuit.”

Police policy only prohibits traveling opposite the flow of traffic when officers are trying to forcibly slow or stop a suspect vehicle, including ramming or forcing the vehicle off the road, the report says. Officers weren’t using those techniques.

The pursuit then exited the downtown loop and traveled to Main Street and then Broad Street, which have speed limits of 35 mph and 30 mph, respectively, and are near Duke University’s East Campus.

“During this time, speeds were reported at 75 mph, however the roadway was straight and vehicle traffic moved to the sides to create a travel lane for emergency response,” the report says.

Police policy states that speed limitations don’t apply “when operated with due regard for safety” under the direction of the police in a chase of someone suspected of violating the law.

While the pursuit traveled down residential streets Green and Watts, “traffic evolved from light to none,” the report says.

It also says police were traveling 55 mph on Club Boulevard, which has a speed limit of 35 mph.

The report doesn’t mention the collision that followed, although police have previously said the Honda drove through a red light and collided with a Chevy Impala and a Hyundai Sonata at the intersection of West Club Boulevard and North Duke Street.

The driver of the Hyundai, Brooke Maynard, a Durham County Sheriff’s Office detention officer and a single mother of a 4-year-old, was pronounced dead at the scene.

No officers were hurt, and no patrol cars were damaged in the incident, according to the report.

After the crash, two semi-automatic firearms were recovered from the driver’s side floorboard and one from the passenger side of the vehicle, the report says.

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Parker, who later told police he had consumed alcohol and crack cocaine that day, was charged with second-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. Deshon Carrington, a passenger in the Honda, was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle and other charges.

Factors police must consider

A district police supervisor oversaw and monitored the police chase and also traffic, weather, speed and other conditions, according to the report.

“The commanding officer also took into consideration the fact that a citizen was injured and transported to the hospital as a result of one of the earlier carjackings,” the report says.

An officer’s obligation in a vehicle pursuit is “to ensure the safety of the public without duplicating the irresponsible behavior of the fleeing suspect(s),” the police policy states, according to the report. Factors officers must consider include likelihood of a successful stop, whether the identity of the person is known, degree of risk, and route conditions, such as traffic, population density and nature of the area.

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Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

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