Baltimore, MD — The family of 58-year-old Terry Harrell is grieving and demanding justice after he was plowed over by a police officer running red lights while violating procedure. The crash is now under investigation by the Maryland Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division.
Harrell's life came to an end on June 23.
According to officials, Baltimore Police Officer Alexis Acosta was responding to a call over a fight happening in the 2800 block of East Preston Street. Footage from Acosta's body camera shows him running multiple red lights on the way to the fight. It also shows him breaking department procedure which led to the gruesome death of an innocent man.
The footage shows Acosta rolling through multiple red lights and a stop sign without slowing down and at a constant rate of speed. According to the department's policy — and the policy of most police departments — officers are required to slow briefly before passing through intersections — especially red lights. However, that did not happen.
As the Baltimore Sun points out, the police department’s Emergency Vehicle Operation policy states that officers driving with their lights and sirens activated can “proceed through a red light or stop signal, a stop sign, or a yield sign, but only after slowing down as necessary for safety.”
Had Acosta slowed briefly before running the red light, he could have seen that Harrell was passing through the intersection from behind a building with a green light. Sadly, he did not and as the CitiWatch camera at North Milton Avenue shows, Acosta sped through the intersection before slamming into Harrell, sending the innocent man and his scooter flying through the air.
"I got into an accident. I got into an accident," Acosta said in the video. "I got into a crash, I got into a crash. Send me an ambulance immediately."
The crash unfolded on June 21 and Harrell was pronounced dead two days later. Acosta was not injured.
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As frequent readers of the Free Thought Project likely understand, police chases — even for minor infractions — can often have deadly consequences. Over the years we've reported on chases for misdemeanors in which countless innocent people, including children have been killed due to the reckless nature of such practices.
As we reported in May, 7 innocent people in one city were killed in a two-week period during police chases.
The St. Louis chapter of the NAACP sought intervention by the U.S. Justice Department after the 7 innocent motorists, including 2 children, were killed during high speed pursuits by police.
As TFTP has reported, this happens a lot — thousands of times. According to a recently published research study by the Fine Law Firm and 1Point21 Interactive, over 2,000 citizens over a four-year period were killed by cops as police were chasing suspect vehicles. Surprisingly, more than half of those killed were not the suspects.
An analysis by the Fine Law Firm and 1Point21 Interactive found that there were 1,699 fatal crashes involving police chases from 2014-2018, killing at least 2,005 people – 1,123 were not the driver of the fleeing vehicle.
That number might be much higher because, just as with officer involved shootings, those killed by cop statistics are not required to be reported to any federal government database anywhere. Currently, officer-involved shooting deaths are only voluntarily reported to the FBI.
We spoke to Brian Beltz, Research Lead at 1Point21 Interactive via email, who tells TFTP that this study hits home as he knew someone who died from a police chase.
“This issue has been pretty close to my heart for several years. One of my best friends lost his father in a collision with a vehicle fleeing the police. He was simply driving through an intersection and was t-boned by the fleeing driver. While I can't say whether or not the chase was justified, being in the position to examine the data and be involved in the study was cathartic in a way. Hopefully, people see the results and it helps make sure that every department has and follows appropriate policies and training on how and when to chase suspects. I also hope it makes people who are stopped for non-violent and traffic offenses think twice about running. It puts innocent people’s lives in jeopardy.”
We also spoke to David Fine, attorney at Fine Law Firm via email who points out that the chases are almost never worth it.
“The study cuts to a core risk-benefit analysis that underlies policing and police misconduct litigation. The touchstone question for assessing police conduct is reasonableness-under-the-circumstances. On balance, the apprehension of a criminal suspect ceases to be reasonable if it poses a substantial risk of injury to the traveling public. Because they are a window into how police departments assess public safety risks, pursuit cases provide important insights into the legal and cultural health of police departments.”