Louisiana teens’ deaths put spotlight on police chases

Jan 5, 2023, 8:10 AM | Updated: 10:23 pm
In this image provided by Janae Montgomery, Caroline Gill, left, and Maggie Dunn are shown in their...

In this image provided by Janae Montgomery, Caroline Gill, left, and Maggie Dunn are shown in their cheerleading uniforms at Brusly High School in Brusly, Louisiana. Gill and Dunn were killed Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in a car crash. Authorities said a police officer from nearby Addis, La., crashed into the car the two girls were in after he joined a pursuit of a suspect that began in Baton Rouge. (Janae Montgomery via AP)

(Janae Montgomery via AP)

              Students walk to the Brusly High School football field for the candlelight vigil for Maggie Dunn and Caroline Gill on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023 in Brusly, La. A police officer has been charged over his role in the death of two teenagers during the high-speed pursuit of a home-invasion suspect in Louisiana. (Michael Johnson/The Advocate via AP)
            
              Family members of Maggie Dunn hug during the Candlelight vigil for Dunn and Caroline Gill on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023 in Brusly, La. A police officer has been charged over his role in the death of two teenagers during the high-speed pursuit of a home-invasion suspect in Louisiana. (Michael Johnson/The Advocate via AP)
            
              In this image provided by Janae Montgomery, Caroline Gill, left, and Maggie Dunn are shown in their cheerleading uniforms at Brusly High School in Brusly, Louisiana. Gill and Dunn were killed Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in a car crash. Authorities said a police officer from nearby Addis, La., crashed into the car the two girls were in after he joined a pursuit of a suspect that began in Baton Rouge. (Janae Montgomery via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It was a tragically high price to pay for catching a suspected car thief: two innocent teenagers dead and a police officer jailed, facing serious charges for a car crash that resulted from the pursuit.

Maggie Dunn, 17, and Caroline Gill, 16, who were cheerleaders for their high school in the southern Louisiana town of Brusly, died in the collision Saturday. They’re the latest fatalities among hundreds every year attributed to accidents involving police pursuits.

Many police departments have tightened their policies on such pursuits in recent years. However, National Highway Transportation Safety data show that 455 deaths were tied to police pursuits in 2020.

The Louisiana case is unusual in that the local prosecutor says the officer, 42-year-old David Cauthron, acted so recklessly that he should face charges and is preparing to ask a grand jury to consider bringing them.

Authorities say Cauthron, an officer in the town of Addis, joined a chase in rural West Baton Rouge Parish that started when police in Baton Rouge pursued a man suspected of stealing his father’s car.

Cauthron, authorities said, drove his police car through an intersection in Brusly, which is next to Addis, ignoring a red light and colliding with a car that held the two girls and Dunn’s 20-year-old brother, Liam, who was critically injured.

“In my experience, I have not seen a police officer charged criminally in a police pursuit case,” said Chicago civil rights attorney Andrew Stroth, who has handled numerous lawsuits in such cases but has no ties to the Louisiana collision.

Cauthron remained jailed Thursday, according to online records. Neither the jail nor the parish court clerk’s office listed an attorney for him.

Parish District Attorney Tony Clayton said in a news release this week that he intends to ask the grand jury to consider charging Cauthron. Possible charges include negligent homicide and negligent injury. Clayton stressed that the investigation will be thorough, but he made clear that he believes the hot pursuit of suspect Tyquel Zanders, 24, was a deadly mistake.

“Sirens and police vehicles do not give an officer the authority to cut through a red light,” Clayton wrote, adding that evidence so far indicates Cauthron was “grossly negligent.”

Clayton didn’t limit his criticism to Cauthron. He previously publicly questioned whether police in Baton Rouge should have pursued Sanders, who was arrested, uninjured, following a chase that involved multiple law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Mississippi River.

Baton Rouge news outlets, citing arrest records, say Zanders is accused of entering a relative’s home on Saturday and making off with his father’s car before leading police on a chase across the river and into Brusly, where the crash occurred. Authorities say Zanders drove back across the river and was arrested in Baton Rouge, where he is charged with car theft, home invasion and aggravated flight.

The Baton Rouge Police Department has a pursuit policy that is posted on the city’s website and lays out when officers can an can’t give chase. A department spokesman, Sgt. L’Jean McKneely, said the pursuit that led to the two teens’ deaths is under review.

Addis police officials did not respond to a request for information about the policy.

Police pursuit deaths often get less attention than controversies over the police use of force, but criminal justice reformers are very aware of them. Policies governing pursuits in New Orleans were adopted after the city agreed to myriad reforms under a 2012 court settlement that followed numerous high-profile incidents involving deadly force.

Michael Downing, a former deputy police chief in Los Angeles, said his department adopted stronger restrictions on pursuits because of deaths, injuries and lawsuits. Strong policies are needed to temper a police officer’s natural urge to pursue a criminal suspect, he said.

With no policy, Downing said, “their instincts are going to be engage, engage, engage.”

Policies differ from department to department, and the issues at play are complex, including whether a suspect poses an immediate threat, he said.

Despite the policies adopted across the country, pursuit-related deaths remain a problem, said Stroth.

“Officers driving willfully, wantonly at high rates of speed in densely populated communities where there’s no real threat,” Stroth said. “And the results have been tragic.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in Nov. 2022, a...
Associated Press

News groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to reject University slayer gag order

Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a gag order in a case against a man accused of stabbing four students to death.
9 hours ago
Nathan Chasing Horse stands in court. Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in North Las Vegas, Nev. Nathan Chasing...
Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor charged in 2018 rape in PNW

Canadian police confirmed Tuesday they are pursuing a criminal case against a former "Dances With Wolves" actor who was arrested last week and charged in Nevada with sexually abusing and trafficking Indigenous women and girls.
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Bus crashes into Canadian day care; at least 8 hurt

LAVAL, Quebec (AP) — A city bus crashed into a day care north of Montreal on Wednesday, sending eight people to the hospital, emergency officials said. It was unclear how many of the injured may have been children. Police set up a large perimeter around the day care in Laval, Quebec, as distraught parents arrived […]
1 day ago
FILE - A poster featuring Bishop Rolando Alvarez and Pope Francis hangs inside the Cathedral in Mat...
Associated Press

EU bishops demand release of clergy detained in Nicaragua

ROME (AP) — European bishops on Wednesday demanded the immediate release of Nicaraguan clergy detained in the government’s crackdown on the Catholic Church, saying they have been falsely accused and are being subjected to unjust persecution. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, president of the Commission of the Bishops Conferences of the European Union, said European bishops would […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Gun, high-capacity magazine found inside Connecticut school

HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut teenager was jailed on numerous charges Wednesday after a fight in school led to the discovery of a gun and a high-capacity magazine hidden in a classroom closet. The 18-year-old student was first charged with assault and disorderly conduct on Tuesday after an altercation with a 16-year-old at the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Minister: Cybercrimes now 20% of Spain’s registered offenses

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s government on Wednesday pledged stronger action against cybercrime, saying it has come to account for about a fifth of all offenses registered in the country. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said police would be given additional staff, funding and resources to address online crime. He said reported cases of cybercrime were up […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Louisiana teens’ deaths put spotlight on police chases