Cedar Rapids police chase ends in fatal crash - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids police chase ends in fatal crash

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - The chase began just after midnight Wednesday morning. Investigators say officers were pursuing a stolen vehicle with several people inside. The car that police officers were chasing crashed into a taxicab at the I-380 and Wilson Avenue interchange.

Cedar Rapids police say that the driver of the taxi, 76-year-old Richard Dankert, was transported to St. Luke's Hospital, where he later died. Three people in the stolen car are now facing charges.

36-year old Connie Gates was the driver of the car police were chasing. She was charged Wednesday with vehicular homicide, driving a stolen vehicle and possesion of crack and marijuana.

Sgt. Cristy Hamblin says it's not often that her department deals with vehicle chases that end in fatalities. Ultimately, she says it's up to the person driving the getaway vehicle to avoid tragedies like this one.

"The easiest way to avoid any chase, is to pull over," she said.

Hamblin hopes what happened Tuesday night will serve as an example of what can happen when people flee from police.

"This is the worst-case scenario we could have," she told us. "If this chase had begun at noon instead of midnight, it would have been a totally different story because of the location."

She says the department considers many factors like time of day and location, as well as pedestrian and road traffic, when deciding if they'll chase a stolen or speeding vehicle.

Unfortunately some chases, like Tuesday night's, can take unexpected turns through red-lighted intersections. Over the past few years, the number of police chases has grown slightly. 39 happened in 2006, with 43 and 45 occurring in 2007 and 2008, respectively. However, department records show the last chase ending in someone's death was in 2002. The driver of a stolen van led them to Iowa County where he was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene.

Sergeant Hamblin tells us some police departments do have a "no-chase" policy, but whether that will ever be adopted in Cedar Rapids, she says, is an ongoing debate.

We checked the police chase policies with some other Eastern Iowa police departments, and found most are similar to the one in Cedar Rapids.

When considering whether or not to engage in a chase, the Cedar Falls police department says it considers things like weather, traffic flow and conditions, people in the area, the seriousness of the crime committed and if there are any passengers in the suspect's vehicle.

The Cedar Falls police department also tells us the supervisor stays in constant contact with the officers involved in the chase, and that lights and sirens are used at all times.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith




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