KCK police to study chase policy after fatal crash

Kansas City, Kan., police have temporarily suspended most pursuits after a girl was killed Wednesday night by a man fleeing from a traffic stop, officials said Thursday.

Only pursuits involving people suspected of serious felonies will continue while the department studies its pursuit policy to determine if changes are needed, Police Chief Ellen Hanson said.

Jasmine Rodriguez, a second-grader who was 7 or 8, died Wednesday night after a vehicle ran a red light at the intersection of North 63rd Street and Leavenworth Road and slammed into the van carrying her.

Police arrested a 27-year-old Kansas City, Kan., man. He was being held in the Wyandotte County jail pending the filing of charges.

The crash also injured Jasmine’s mother, Jacqueline Ramirez, 35, who was driving the van, and Jasmine’s two brothers.

One of her brothers was treated at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Her mother and other brother were taken to University of Kansas Hospital. Information about their conditions was not available Thursday.

“The death of any innocent person is a terrible event,” Hanson said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. “Our hearts are breaking for the families involved.”

According to police and the Kansas Highway Patrol, an officer pulled over a man driving a 2000 Chevrolet Impala for a seat belt violation about 8:30 p.m. at 63rd Street and Parallel Parkway.

Hanson said the officer noticed other “suspicious activity” and asked the driver for his license. The driver immediately began to drive off. The officer tried to stop him and was involved in a brief scuffle before the driver fled, she said.

The officer began to follow the Impala and asked for permission to pursue. After the officer advised dispatchers of the speed, weather and road conditions, a supervisor gave permission to continue.

But just seven seconds later, the crash occurred about six blocks from where the officer had stopped the car. Only 35 seconds had elapsed since the pursuit started, police said.

Hanson said officers are placed in a “very difficult situation” when faced with the decision of whether to initiate a pursuit. They have to balance the safety of the public with ensuring the people committing crimes are held accountable.

“I can assure you we do care about the safety of our citizens and officers,” she said. “One thing we can’t control is the behavior of fleeing suspects.”

According to statistics released by police, the department initiated 2,614 pursuits from 2007 to 2013. Four of those incidents resulted in the deaths of two citizens and two suspects, Hanson said.

Wednesday’s fatal crash was the second this year involving a driver attempting to flee from Kansas City, Kan., police.

In February, 62-year-old Graciela Olivas was killed when her car was involved in a collision at 34th Street and Shawnee Drive.

Christopher Bradley Stewart, 28, is charged in the case with felony first-degree murder and fleeing from police.

Hanson said she did not know how long the policy review would take but that results would be made public when it was completed.

Jasmine attended second grade at Welborn Elementary School in Kansas City, Kan., according to a spokesman for the Kansas City, Kan., school district. Her siblings also attend the school, where extra counselors were brought in Thursday to help students.