DICKINSON — A police officer involved Sunday night in a high-speed police chase that ended in a crash that killed six people did not violate the department’s chase procedure, department officials said Wednesday.
“A preliminary review of the circumstances surrounding the vehicle pursuit has shown no policy violation,” police Capt. Jay Jaekel said.
Dickinson Police officer Daniel Banda, a two-year veteran of the department, attempted to pull over an SUV after he saw the vehicle swerving and running without headlights, police said. When the Dodge Durango sideswiped another vehicle and sped off, Banda gave chase, police officials said. The suspect’s vehicle exceeded 100 mph during the pursuit, they said.
A short time later, as the Durango blew through a stop sign at FM 646 and Ohio Street and crashed into a Honda Accord.
Juan Garcia Ahuezoteco, 23, and his cousin Alejandro Molina were in the Dodge Durango, police said. Ahuezoteco was driving, police allege.
The Honda was carrying a family of four who lived less than a block away from the crash site.
Police identified the three adults killed in the Honda as Rafael Guerrero, 41; his wife, Alejandra Guerrero, 38; and her brother, Gilberto Ortega Jr. 25. Guerreros’s son Luis Angel Guerrero, 13, also was killed.
The department’s vehicle pursuit policy, which was adopted in 2011, requires officers and their supervisors to justify their actions once they decide to engage in a chase. Even then, they are supposed to also continuously evaluate the safety of their actions.
When officers pursue fleeing suspects, they are supposed to consider weather and road conditions and gauge the “seriousness of the offense,” according to the policy.
A Dickinson police supervisor is required to monitor the pursuit and direct officers to either abandon or continue the chase. At no time are there to be more than two officers engaged in a pursuit, the policy states.
During the chase, the officer is to give basic information and the reason for the pursuit to the police dispatcher and is also supposed to keep the dispatcher informed of location and direction of travel.
“Whenever the risk to the public or the officer outweighs the immediate need to apprehend the suspect, the officer will terminate the pursuit,” according to the policy.
Dickinson’s internal affairs department and members of the department’s criminal investigation division are working with League City accident investigation officers on an in-depth review of the fatal chase. A final review will be issued later, Jaekel said, but the department did not say when that would be released.
Jaekel also took issue with questions about the immigration status of those involved. Court records show that Ahuezoteco, who was wanted on a 2013 DWI charge, lived in League City but said he was a resident of Mexico.
Officials have never confirmed whether Ahuezoteco was a legal resident or in the country on a work visa.
“The citizenship status is irrelevant to any aspect of our criminal and/or internal investigation into this tragic accident,” Jaekel said.