St. Louis County, MO — On Dec. 5, 2020 Sgt. Herschel Turner with the Moline Acres police department tragically fell victim to the leading cause of death for law enforcement in the line-of-duty. He was involved in a motor vehicle-related incident from which he did not survive.
It would take nearly two years for the man who killed him to be held accountable and this week we learned a possible reason for why that is. On the night he was killed, Turner was helping a Bellefontaine Neighbors police officer with a traffic accident. Moments later, he'd be dead and the Bellefontaine Neighbors police officer, Brian Rayford, 41, would be the one who killed him.
This week, Rayford was charged with manslaughter in connection to Turner's death.
According to police, Turner was helping Rayford with a stop for a vehicle crash that night when Rayford claimed to have seen a stolen vehicle pass by and left that stop to initiate another one, against procedure.
Rayford began pursuing the vehicle without any “reasonable evidence that the need to immediately apprehend the driver of the vehicle outweighed the level of danger to the public created by his pursuit," according to the prosecutor's news release.
When he gave chase, Rayford sped away from the scene of the original crash and the driver of the allegedly stolen vehicle did not stop. He left Turner behind on the side of the road. At some point, Rayford headed back toward Turner in pursuit of the vehicle, at speeds of over 80 mph, without lights on, and with no siren.
Turner, who was still on the road, likely never knew that a chase was headed toward him because of the lack of lights and siren, so he did not get out of the way in time.
“The Bellefontaine Neighbors patrol car that originally attempted to stop the stolen car, approached the crash scene and went off the right side of the roadway to avoid the crash and struck Sergeant Turner,” officials said.
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The suspects driving the stolen car also crashed. Turner would be taken to a nearby hospital with serious injuries but unfortunately would not survive them.
“We understand being an officer is a very tough job. When initiating a high-speed pursuit of a vehicle, police officers need to make sound decisions that responsibly balance the danger that their pursuit will cause against the threat an offender potentially poses to the community. Some facts show closer calls, but this was not close,” said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell. “We believe the evidence shows that this officer did not make sound decisions and, tragically, that caused the death of a police sergeant who was just doing his job.”
Rayford was fired from Bellefontaine Neighbors after the crash and now works as a police officer in Hillsdale. He is expected to surrender to authorities this week and prosecutors have requested he be held on a $100,000 bond.
As for Turner, he was a father who left behind a wife, children, and six siblings. In his off time, he mentored children and would spend hours helping strangers in need of assistance.
As stated above, motor vehicle-related incidents are the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement officers in the United States — and as this case illustrates — they are also preventable.
Cops keep initiating irresponsible chases and innocent people keep dying as a result.
In fact, as TFTP has reported, it 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.
As we reported in May of this year, 7 innocent people, including children were killed in a single town in just under two weeks — all because police officers choose to engage in these dangerous chases.