CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Clearwater Police Chief has suspended three officers following an internal investigation that found they violated the department's pursuit policy for chasing a stolen vehicle back in May, a chase that ended in a crash.
- Incident occurred on May 29
- Policy states pursuit only to occur in case of violent felony
- Driver involved in crash plans to sue city, attorney says
"The policy says for a pursuit to occur it has to be a violent felony," said Chief Dan Slaughter. "Grand theft auto is not, and that policy is in place for the safety of all involved."
The incident happened on May 29. On that date, Detective Fredrick Lise found a stolen SUV and initiated a felony traffic stop.
According to the report, the suspect then fled. Lise, along with Officers Langston Woodie and Jesse Myers, chased the vehicle into the Largo area.
Surveillance video shows all three officers pursuing the stolen SUV without their lights and sirens on. The officers also admitted they ran a red light.
"Definitely went through a red light," said Slaughter. "They weren't utilizing their emergency equipment when they went through that red light and that's not acceptable."
When Myers drove through that red light, he crashed into a car that had the right of way. Attorney Sean McQuaid represents the driver of that car, Zoe Applegate, 20, who said she suffered a broken wrist, ribs and other injuries in the crash.
McQuaid said he plans to file a claim with the city. Myers was also transported to the hospital with injuries.
"It just goes back to 'was it worth it?'" said Slaughter. "Had we had our lights and sirens on, we might've been able to avoid that."
The suspect in the stolen SUV fled on foot and got away that night. Clearwater Police later arrested two men they identified through fingerprints and DNA from the SUV.
Lise was also suspended for a second week for failing to communicate over his police radio during the chase.
"We feel he could've informed his supervisors a little more clearly on what was going on and what he was doing," Slaughter said. "Giving our supervisors an opportunity to intervene and to direct him to take a different action."
Slaughter also said he realized the officers just want to catch a bad guy, but must follow the policies while doing it.
"It's very frustrating with the state of the stolen vehicles that we're dealing with," he said. "These officers made a mistake, but they're good people. We held them accountable and we don't think we'll have a further problem."