MSP: Chase that ended in fatal crash was justified

ROCKFORD, Mich. — Michigan State Police say the trooper who was pursuing a fleeing vehicle Saturday night before a deadly crash was following department protocol.

An initial review of seven questions that officers must consider before initiating a chase was followed, according to Lt. Chris McIntire, who briefed reporters Monday at the Michigan State Police post in Rockford. Those factors include weather conditions, speed, the nature of the violation and traffic in the area.

“We revamped our pursuit policy about two and a half years ago because we wanted to take a good hard look at when our troopers are chasing people, and why they’re chasing them," McIntire said.

"They can make a decision if they feel it’s becoming unsafe or if all these seven factors aren’t being applied they can terminate."

The crash happened after 10:00 p.m. when the vehicle being chased by police drove through the intersection of Broadmoor Ave. SE and 52nd Street in Kentwood, crashing into another vehicle driving northbound.

Tara Oskam

Tara Oskam, 21, a junior at Calvin College was killed in the collision.  The passenger of the fleeing vehicle, David Torrez, 15 was also killed.  The driver, who police would not identify until he is arraigned, is in the hospital and is facing charges.

Police say they chase began when Trooper Christopher Bommarito saw the suspect vehicle driving 90 in a 70 mph zone on U.S. 131. He tried to pull over the driver who briefly stopped but then took off before exiting the highway at 54th Street.

“The vehicle initially stopped and waited there for about 15 seconds before the driver made the decision to then flee," McIntire said.

David Torrez

The chase last just a few minutes and spanned roughly five miles. Police, however, say the suspect did slow down at intersections during the pursuit.

"Even the driver of the suspect vehicle was very conscious of his driving," McIntire said. "He slowed down at all of the red lights that I could see – he slowed down at one green light.”

A review of dash camera video in Bommarito's cruiser showed he was following policy, according to McIntire, who noted the trooper never lost sight of the vehicle being chased, staying about a quarter mile back.

Bommarito is a 20-year veteran with the department who has worked out of the Rockford post since 2006.

“It’s tough," McIntire said of Bommarito when asked how he was doing since the chase. He remains on active duty.

Police say they don't know why the driver fled from the officer.

The case is now being reviewed by state police investigators in Lansing.  The Kent County Prosecutor will also review the case to determine potential charges.

Legality of police pursuits

Under Michigan law, police officers are typically immune to the rules of the road when they're involved in a chase. If they weren't, then they wouldn't be able to chase anyone down.

Attorney Tom Sinas says cops are rarely ever sued for their involvement in a chase, even if someone gets hurt. That's because the Michigan Supreme Court ruled nearly two decades ago that it isn't the police who are responsible if anyone gets hurt - it's the suspect driver for refusing to stop for police.

In order for an officer to be in the wrong, Sinas says one would have to prove they were purposely being reckless in the chase.

FOX 17s Doug Reardon, Josh Sidorowicz, and Cassy Arsenault contributed to this report.

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11 comments

  • Hector

    Of course it is justified by an”internal audit”. I have never heard of a police dept or arrogant Michigan State Police state anything different. That includes the Kalamazoo DA. Ask Ms Ford of Plainwell.

    • KB

      So this is the police officer’s fault? Get a life. This idiot was driving 90 miles per hour before the police even saw him and then fled when the officer tried to pull him over. This driver was going to kill someone regardless of the police chase. He does not deserve to see the light of day again, he took the life of an innocent person with his recklessness. Prayers for the victim’s family.

  • Common Cents

    The existence of police cannot be justified by anyone except a slave. Either you believe you were born with masters, or you were born with free will. No one, except for a wholly evil person, would perform an action without judging for himself whether that action will harm another being. “I was just following orders” is the most common excuse for evil and I’m sick of hearing it.

    • Michael

      You are right we shouldn’t have any police. Never mind that every other civilized country also has a police force.

      We should all be able to murder, rape, and steal whenever we feel like it. It’ll be like one big party. Things would be so much better!

      /sarcasm

        • Commonsense

          How about we place the blame where it belongs with the piece of Crap currently taking up space in a hospital room at age 17 with a rap sheet already a mile long. Law Enforcement was doing their job! Walk a day in their shoes. You don’t have the kahunas to do so!

  • Bill

    52nd from Division to Breton is residential. Conducting a pursuit through that area is reckless and arrogant. The traffic in that area at 10pm on a Saturday is active and the cross traffic at Eastern, Kalamazoo, and Broadmoor would be treacherous for a pursuit. It saddens me to hear that they believe it is justified to put the public at such great risk.

    • Too arrogant

      That is my opinion also. It is not placing blame it is simply too risky to chase a car speeding through city streets. The MSP is just to arrogant to get it. Always have been, and will never change.