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KC man killed in quadruple fatality was headed to see his newborn, father says

One of the victims in Friday's quadruple fatality crash was a father on his way to see his newborn daughter, who'd been born just two days before.

Aaron Daniel, 29, was killed when a Jeep T-boned the Dodge Avenger he was driving, according to Kansas City police. The driver of the Jeep was fleeing from Independence police, who pursued at 90 mph.

A few minutes into the chase, the Jeep collided with the Dodge at the intersection of 23rd Street and Television Place in Kansas City.

Four people were killed, and four others were seriously hurt.

Aaron Daniel's father was critical of Independence officers' decision to initiate a pursuit. They pursued the Jeep because they believed it to be stolen.

"Not to make light of a possible auto theft," McAllister Daniel said, "but by no means is it worth four deaths. ... We've got four different families who have lost a loved one."

A woman in the Dodge's front passenger seat, 30-year-old Shawn Johnson, was killed, as was a man in the backseat of the vehicle, Kansas City police said. The man's identity has not yet been released.

The front passenger in the Jeep, a 27-year-old Independence woman, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her identity was released but police have not yet notified next of kin.

Victoria M. Brown, 24, was found pinned in the driver's seat of the Jeep. She suffered serious injuries and was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and resisting arrest. Additional charges are possible in light of the fourth person's death in the hospital.

Brown has a valid driver's license. A search of Missouri criminal records indicated she has never been charged with a crime in the state.

Aaron Daniel was heading to his partner's home in Kansas City so the couple could "celebrate their newborn," his father said.

He also has three other children, aged 5, 7 and 10, whose father was "there one day and now is gone," McAllister Daniel said.

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AaRon Daniel, 29, and Shawn Johnson, 30, cousins who both lived in Kansas City, and Anthony A. Belton Jr., 24 of Kansas City, were killed when a Jeep T-boned their Dodge on Friday afternoon near 23rd Street and Television Place. Amanda Perry, who was a passenger in the Jeep, also died. Shelly Yang syang@kcstar.com

He questioned why Independence police chose to pursue culprits of an alleged nonviolent crime in a high-speed, heavily trafficked area. The crash occurred about 4 p.m. and about a quarter-mile from Interstate 435.

Independence officers lost sight of the Jeep around a bend on 23rd Street. When they made it around the curve, they came upon the scene: the Jeep, its front end a crumpled mess of metal, and an upside-down Dodge in a grassy ditch.

Eight people in all were dead, dying or suffering from injuries in the two vehicles.

McAllister Daniel, who lives in Milwaukee, said he'd missed an opportunity to see his son earlier this year during a road trip through Kansas City. A text message failed to deliver, and Daniel had continued on to see other relatives in Omaha.

He reminisced about working with his son, who attended Grandview High School, on his running technique and basketball skills.

His son studied computer technology and criminal justice in college and had been working for several years as a fork lift operator in Kansas City.

Police believe Daniel was traveling east on 23rd in the Dodge and attempting to make a left turn onto Television.

According to charging documents filed by the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office and based on a Kansas City police officer's investigation, two Independence police officers believed the Jeep was stolen because its plates were registered to a different vehicle and because they recognized it from a nightly activity log and emails that identified it as a stolen auto.

Independence officers spotted the Jeep in Independence and pursued it westbound on 23rd Street, toward I-435. During the chase, the Jeep went over a median on 23rd Street near Cedar Avenue and sped away toward the freeway.

"That area, the traffic does pick up, and it's right off 435," McAllister Daniel said. "My opinion: It was just a reckless decision on (Independence police's) part."

An Independence police spokesman, in response to multiple questions sent by The Star, including ones requesting details of the pursuit and others regarding the department's pursuit policy, said Saturday by email: "Jeep was stolen out of Independence the night before."

The department's policy on vehicle pursuits is 13 pages long and states that "keeping the safety of the public" should be the "highest priority" when determining whether to engage in a pursuit.

The policy says that officers should avoid chases "whenever practical" and that "any pursuit will be discontinued when there clearly is excessive danger to anyone."

Independence police pursued the Jeep for approximately 2 miles, according to court records.

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Independence officers began a pursuit of a suspected stolen blue Jeep Patriot on Cedar Avenue and chased it for about 2 miles west on 23rd Street. The Jeep collided with a vehicle at the Television Place intersection. Google Maps

In cases such as the one Friday, where a stolen vehicle is identified, officers are supposed to consider alternatives to attempting to make an immediate arrest, according to department policy. Those alternatives include requesting a police helicopter to track the vehicle and deploying stop sticks.

A 2015 investigation by the Kansas City-based Hale Center for Journalism found that at least 24 people were killed during the previous decade as a result of high-speed police chases in the metro area.

Critics in and outside of law enforcement say chases aren't usually worth the risk they pose to the public. Less than 10 percent of pursuits are triggered by violent felonies nationwide, the Hale Center report said, citing a study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

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