Three innocent drivers killed in past week in Hampton Roads police chases

CH Crossways Boulevard police chase fatal crash (July 15).png
Posted at 2:04 PM, Jul 19, 2021

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - In the past week, three innocent drivers have been killed during police chases in Hampton Roads.

Last week, police say a man being chased by police crashed into a car in Chesapeake, killing David Jones and Jennifer O'Connell.

Over the weekend, state police say a driver being pursued by police crashed into another car, leading to a fire in the other car, which killed the driver.

Separately, a chase from Norfolk to Portsmouth injured another driver. Police say two men were attempting to get away from police, ran a stop sign, and hit another car. The driver of the car had minor injuries.

"Police pursuits are very, very dangerous," said Rick James, a retired Norfolk Police Officer and crime analyst.

James explained how police pursuits generally work. An officer would radio to dispatch that he or she is in a pursuit. They would then face questions from a field supervisor assessing how dangerous a pursuit is and whether to continue it.

"You have to weigh the difference in terms of do I want to catch this person or should I discontinue to protect the public," said James.

Two of the recent incidents involved Chesapeake Police. On Monday, the department released its pursuit policy.

The policy states, "The decision to initiate pursuit must be based on the officer’s reasonable belief that the pursued subject presents a clear and present danger to the safety of the public, and the necessity for immediate apprehension outweighs the level of danger created by the pursuit."

When asked whether the proper policy was being followed in the recent chases, a police department spokesperson said that remains under investigation.

Read the entire Chesapeake Police pursuit policy.

Other departments post their policies online, including Norfolk. Their policy says chases are prohibited unless "there is an immediate need to apprehend a suspect which outweighs the inherent risk of the pursuit."

"It's not an easy decision to make," said James. "That's why everyone can't get into law enforcement. You have to be able to make those quick decisions."

As recent incidents demonstrate, the outcomes can be tragic. The driver accused of driving into Jones and O'Connell is charged with two counts of murder.