Police say the vehicle's lights and sirens were not activated because the officer was attempting to catch up with the car he was chasing first.
A St. Louis County police officer who struck a child during a chase did not have his emergency lights on, police have confirmed.
Fox 2 reports
that the incident occurred in the 8900 block of Halls Ferry Road in north city. A spokesman for the St. Louis County Police, Sergeant Benjamin Granda, tells the station that the officer struck a twelve-year-old girl only 32 seconds and a quarter mile into a chase that reached speeds of 59 miles per hour, on a street whose speed limit is 30 miles per hour.
The child, Akeelah "Kee Kee" Jackson, reportedly ran in front of the police SUV the officer was driving. The officer immediately discontinued the chase in order to render aid and call for help.
According to an incident report, EMS responded to the scene and transported Jackson to a hospital, where she was listed in critical/unstable condition.
The little girl's injuries are severe. Her legs, wrists and pelvic bones were shattered, and she suffered internal bleeding and a brain injury, according to the Post-Dispatch
. Family members tell the daily that she is not likely to survive, according to her doctors. Those same family members are calling for the officer involved to face charges.
"She was really smart, a straight-A student," Akeelah's cousin Ashley Jackson tells the daily
. "She was shy but always smiling. She loved music and dancing. We're all just devastated right now. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That officer should be arrested. We need some type of justice. He didn't even come up to apologize or anything."
The chase that resulted in the crash was started when the officer saw a suspicious black Camaro at a BP gas station in Jennings near Halls Ferry Circle, the Post-Dispatch reports
. Upon running the vehicle's license plate, the officer found it did not match the car. The Camaro took off away from the officer, travelling southbound on Halls Ferry Road, prompting the officer to give chase.
According to Granda, the officer did not have his emergency lights or siren on because he was attempting to catch up to the vehicle first.
"I think reasonable people understand that a police officer has a duration of time or space they need to catch up with a car to initiate a traffic stop, Granda tells the Post-Dispatch
. "Otherwise we would never be able to conduct a traffic stop because they would be gone."
The officer who was driving the SUV has not been identified. He reportedly has been with the force for four years, and is 25 years old. Police say he is cooperating with the investigation.
Since the incident happened within city limits, the St. Louis Police Department is spearheading the case. St. Louis police officer Michelle Woodling tells the Post-Dispatch
that questions related to the officer's actions prior to the accident should be directed to the County Police.
"We understand that there are and will be questions surrounding this investigation, and we will be as open and transparent as possible as this investigation continues," she writes in an email.
The SUV that hit Akeelah was equipped with a dashcam, but that camera was not running at the time of the accident. Granda says that's because officers have not been trained on how to turn them on.
"This is very unfortunate," Granda says, "and we would also like to encourage witnesses of any portion of this to contact us or St. Louis police to ensure that we have all perspectives."
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