A Jeep Cherokee that struck and killed two people riding a motorcycle was being chased by Independence police who suspected the SUV to be stolen, a police spokesman said Thursday afternoon.
The driver of the motorcycle died in the crash that happened at 10:50 p.m. Wednesday at Scott Avenue and Winner Road in Independence. The driver’s passenger died later at a hospital.
In their initial release of information, Independence police failed to mention that they were pursuing the SUV at the time of the crash. More than 12 hours after the crash, police released additional information saying officers were chasing a suspected stolen SUV when the crash occurred.
The chase began about 10:40 p.m. when an Independence police officer spotted the suspected stolen vehicle near East 29th Street and Santa Fe Road, said Sgt. John Syme, a spokesman for the Independence Police Department.
The driver allegedly fled in the SUV after seeing police officers in the area. He also allegedly swerved at oncoming vehicles, including a police vehicle, Syme said.
The driver allegedly was headed south on Scott when it struck the motorcyclists, who were headed east on Winner Road and were not involved in the pursuit, Syme said.
The SUV’s driver fled from the crash and “continued to drive dangerously,” including driving the wrong way on several roadways, including Interstate 70, Syme said.
An officer eventually used his police vehicle to stop the SUV and the driver was arrested, he said.
The crash is the latest in the Kansas City area where innocent bystanders were killed in a crash involving a vehicle being pursued by police.
It also occurred in an area near the Kansas City and Independence city limits where Independence police have previously been involved in police pursuits that ended in wrecks that killed and injured innocent bystanders.
Including Wednesday’s crash, seven people have died in three crashes involving police chases in that area — six were bystanders and one person was a passenger in a car being pursued.
In June 2018, four people were killed and four others were seriously injured when a Jeep fleeing Independence police T-boned a Dodge Avenger.
That wreck was less than two miles from the site of a January 2014 crash that killed a 35-year-old man and injured two passengers.
Many law enforcement agencies across the nation have changed policies to restrict dangerous police car chases to situations where a violent felony or threat to public safety is in play.
Critics contend that the risk to public safety is not worth chasing a vehicle for anything other than a violent criminal. Data has shown that when police stop chasing, the person fleeing slows down, lessening the danger.
In response to questions about the chase, Syme provided The Star a copy of its vehicle pursuit policy.
Under the policy, officers are allowed to chase a car for any offense, including stolen vehicles.
“Officers are authorized to initiate a pursuit when it is reasonable to believe that a suspect is attempting to evade arrest or detention by fleeing in a vehicle,” the policy states.
Officers are not allowed to follow suspects the wrong way on highways, interstates or divided roadways. Officers are allowed, with approval of a supervisor, to pursue in the correct lanes of travel.
Pursuits involving misdemeanor charges or minor traffic offenses are to be terminated if the driver heads the wrong way or into oncoming traffic, according to the policy.