Houston, TX — Body camera footage released this week shows what happens when over-confident cops get behind the wheel and drive like they are invincible. Their dangerous and irresponsible cowboy tactics can and will lead to the suffering and death of innocent people. The family and friends of Michael Wayne Jackson learned that lesson the hard way recently when officer Orlando Hernandez jumped his cruiser up onto the sidewalk and killed the 62-year-old man.
The incident unfolded on Dec. 4, 2021, but body camera footage was only just released. Hernandez and his partner officer Anthony Aranda were travelling in their cruiser at speeds over 100 mph as they helped another officer chase down pedestrians on foot who were allegedly involved in a carjacking.
As the suspects they were pursuing were on foot, there was absolutely no reason to be driving 80-100 mph through a residential neighborhood. Despite these facts, however, Hernandez was driving like a maniac and only had one hand on the wheel as he travelled through the neighborhood at more than double the speed limit.
Adding to the irresponsible nature of the chase was the fact that it had also been raining that afternoon so the roads were wet. According to police, Jackson was walking west on the sidewalk in the 4100 block of Reed Road when Hernandez drove through a red light before turning the steering wheel 180 degrees to avoid hitting cars.
Immediately after he avoided hitting cars, Hernandez drove the cruiser onto the sidewalk smashing into Jackson and continuing on about 50 feet before crashing into a dumpster.
After hitting Jackson, Hernandez and Aranda run from the cruiser back to Jackson as witnesses are heard screaming in horror.
“I need HFD here,” Hernandez told dispatch. “I just got wrecked out,” he said, as if the entire crash wasn’t his fault. “Uh, Scott and Reed. One male patient is going to be knocked unconscious, not breathing, uh, bleeding from the head.”
“Sir, sir, sir,” Hernandez said as he shook Jackson’s lifeless body. “Wake up, sir.”
But Jackson would never wake up. He was pronounced dead on the scene. He had been walking to a nearby barbershop for a haircut.
An internal investigation is now underway but it’s been a month and no charges have been brought.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Houston police have not released any other findings from their investigation, including any telemetry data from the cruiser’s computer regarding the cruiser’s actual speed and if/when Hernandez applied the brakes. Crash investigators with HPD’s vehicular crimes division noted in a crash report that Hernandez was “traveling at an unsafe speed” and “performed a faulty evasive action.”
Both Hernandez and Aranda are still listed as active duty and Hernandez has not been charged with a crime. Had he been a civilian, rest assured that he would have been charged and arrested immediately.
Unfortunately, Jackson’s case is not isolated. 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.
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 like Jackson’s case, where the suspects were on foot, 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.”
Article posted with permission from Matt Agorist
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