The Jeep was there, suddenly, in the opposite lane, flying faster than any traffic Cheryl Cunningham had ever seen.
"Oh my God," the 56-year-old Independence woman told her mother who was driving their car, "somebody's going to get hurt or die."
"It was going over 100 mph," she recalled Monday.
The Jeep, like a torpedo, flew past them westward on 23rd Street Friday afternoon west of Blue Ridge Boulevard toward Kansas City, with two Independence police cars following behind.
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It was, it would turn out, the last half mile of the doomed vehicle's sprint. On around the sweeping divided four-lane roadway, the Jeep carrying four people smashed into a car with four people that turned left into its path at Television Place.
Three people were killed quickly, a fourth person would die later. And four people — including the driver of the Jeep — were seriously injured.
Cunningham didn't learn this until she rushed into her house and turned on her television.
"I started bawling," she said. "I knew something was going to happen."
Kansas City police investigated the crash that ended in their town and began notifying next of kin, while Independence police were facing questions about the risks they took in chasing the driver of a Jeep that had been reported stolen.
Independence police officials on Monday said they conduct vehicle pursuits as safely as they can, and that they have decreased the number of pursuits in recent years.
"The Independence Police Department truly recognizes the dangers that exist during vehicle pursuits," said spokesman Officer John Syme in a written statement.
"Any loss of life or serious injury sustained as a result of a fleeing suspect's reckless acts is tragic."
The three people killed in the car were AaRon Daniel, 29, and Shawn Johnson, 30, both of Kansas City, and woman whose name had not been released.
A passenger in the Jeep, Amanda Perry, 27, of Independence was killed.
The driver of the Jeep, 24-year-old Victoria M. Brown of Kansas City, has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder, with another murder charge possible with the death of the fourth victim.
Several witnesses reached by The Star described the Jeep's flight and the actions of the Independence police officers in at least two cars that pursued it.
An area nurse said she was driving with her son and patients on 23rd Street approaching Television Road when the gray Jeep sped past her. She pulled over to allow room for the police car following close behind and watched as the Jeep crashed and flipped.
The nurse, who has asked that her name not be used as a witness to a crime, said she nearly left her own vehicle to give medical aid to victims but didn't because her son told her to stay because she had her own patients in the car. She told the Star that she later learned one of the victims in the crash was her son's friend Shawn Johnson.
The section of 23rd Street from South Cedar Avenue west to Interstate 435 is a highly traveled, hilly roadway with a mix of residential homes and small businesses.
A local business owner who works on 23rd Street between South Maywood Avenue and South Cedar Avenue said she saw what she believed was the early stages of the police chase that preceded the wreck.
She said she saw an unmarked police car that had its emergency sirens activated drive south on South Maywood Avenue and later west on 23rd Street. She also reported seeing multiple other police cars and emergency vehicles travel west on 23rd Street.
Cunningham saw the Jeep as it was leaving Independence past Blue Ridge Boulevard. At that point, she estimated, the first trailing police car was three or four seconds behind the Jeep, and not driving as fast as the Jeep.
"(The police cars) were not right on top of them," she said. "They were a little ways behind."
She does not think the police at that point would have been able to see the Jeep around the bend in the highway.
Court records show that police said they had lost sight of the Jeep as it went around the curve toward Television Place.
Independence police engage in fewer pursuits than they once did — the number dropped 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to police data.
Independence police still reserve the right to chase fleeing drivers, including stolen cars. A third of the people arrested by Independence police after vehicle pursuits last year were charged with vehicle theft.
By contrast, the Kansas City Police Department keeps a stricter policy on police pursuits that says that officers won't start a pursuit for just a stolen car or a traffic violation — there must be a violent felony involved or a "clear and immediate danger" to the safety of others.
Independence police pursuit policy says officers should consider alternatives to pursuing a stolen car, including asking for help from Kansas City police helicopters. Pursuits for traffic violations or for misdemeanors will be avoided or terminated if they pose unnecessary risk, the policy says.
If officers decide to pursue, they must "continually question whether the seriousness of the circumstances or violation justifies a speed in excess of the posted speed limit," Syme said.
Very often, police decide to stop the pursuit. Of 250 Independence police pursuits in 2017, 145 were discontinued for safety reasons — that's 58 percent.
Independence police also use alternatives to pursuit, including GPS tracking. Police in Independence were among the first in the Kansas City area to use the StarChase system, which allows officers to affix a GPS tracker to a fleeing vehicle and follow its movements remotely. In 2017, Independence police used StarChase 47 times.
Because of the cost, not all Independence police cars are equipped with StarChase.
Independence police also have the option of disabling a fleeing vehicle with "stop sticks" — which they used 66 times last year.
Of the 133 people arrested by Independence police following vehicle pursuits last year, 41 were arrested after the chase had been terminated — often tracked down by police dogs or officers patrolling the area.
Thirty-three percent of those arrested were charged with vehicle theft, while 32 percent were charged with a felony or had a felony warrant.
Syme said he knew of no official department policy emphasizing making arrests on stolen cars. Many of the arrests may be a result of how easily stolen cars can be identified and their association with other crimes.
The number of high-speed chases is smaller than the total number of pursuits, Syme said. Even if a chase is called off after three seconds, or if the "fleeing" driver is going 5 mph, it will be counted as a pursuit.
Independence police policy on pursuits "allows for the apprehension of criminals, while still listing sufficient restrictions to maintain the highest level of safety," Syme said.
Independence City Manager Zach Walker said in a written statement Monday that the police policies for pursuits have to consider the safety of the public, the officers and the suspects.
He said he could not speak specifically to the pursuit under investigation, but, "it must be noted however," he said, "that no matter how much our officers train there are certain intangibles related to the decisions of the suspect in each situation. In the unfortunate situations where a suspect chooses to use dangerous speed and erratic driving, our officers work to protect civilians and property in the area."