Woman caught up in police chase lost son in similar circumstance - KCTV5

Woman caught up in police chase lost son in similar circumstance

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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

Cheryl Cooper had often imagined the six minutes and seven seconds in which Independence police raced after a suspect before the suspect's vehicle crashed into her son.

Christopher Cooper was riding on his bicycle and legally crossing the street when the car traveling about 80 mph hit him. Cooper lay bleeding to death as police officers laughed around him with dash cam video capturing one say, "They're like roaches, man. They don't die."

Christopher Cooper's family said first responders failed to act expeditiously to save him and he died an hour later at a hospital. His parents sued and reportedly settled for $275,000.

As a result of the settlement, Cooper has been muted in her public comments about the Independence Police Department, which has had at times a negative reputation when it comes to police chases.

Then earlier this week, she and another son had been to the emergency room after he suffered torn knee ligaments. As they were returning on Noland Road, they got caught up in a police pursuit. The location was near where her son was hit.

"It was a terrifying experience and caused both my son and I great distress," Cooper told KCTV5. "I was scared to death. I was terrified ... it took me back to Nov. 8, 2007."

Independence police say they avoid pursuits when other options are available and weigh the dangers. They say department policy was followed Wednesday night.

Raytown police were chasing a stolen vehicle and notified Independence police that they would be entering their city and requested assistance.

As the suspect vehicle and pursuing police vehicles roared past Cooper, she said she moved over.

"At that point, I observed the fleeing driver turn around and head back to Noland Road heading south. He turned left on Fair with multiple units behind him, then left on Dodgion heading back toward 23rd Street. I was just west of that intersection but did not know that the chase was coming straight for us," she wrote to KCTV5. "My son was in the back seat as I proceeded forward, and he saw the chase coming at us. He yelled for me to drive, and the fleeing driver missed hitting us by 5 to 10 feet. I again pulled over after the chase passed us again. At that point, I observed police cars with no headlights and no sirens involved in the chase. In total, I estimate that there were 15 to 20 squad cars, including the sheriff's department and possibly Highway Patrol."

As Cooper continued on 23rd Street, she thought she was away from the case. Until it again came behind her. She pulled into a drug store parking lot to avoid being hit.

"This chase last night put many innocent people's lives in danger," Cooper wrote to KCTV5 earlier this week. "The Independence Police Department's pursuit policy was violated last night again, the same as it was during the chase that killed my son."

Cooper cited the department's policy, which she said states, "There shall be no caravanning by field units not directly involved in the immediate chase."

She said she could not count all the cars involved.

"Nothing has changed in this department in relation to following policy, and no lessons have been learned from the chase that killed my son," she said. "My son and I came very close to becoming casualties ourselves."

She said she knew she had to speak out after Wednesday night. She said she doesn't want to regret not speaking out and hopefully she can prevent injuries or even deaths.

"I can't watch it happen again and not say something about it," she said. "I'm not going to stop talking about this in my lifetime ... although chases are necessary at times, chases for burned out tail lights and stolen cars do not equate with a human life."

Independence Police Department spokesman Tom Gentry said last year that Independence police called off 40 percent of its chases.

Regarding this week's chase, Gentry said dash cam videos show no violations of department policy but that the incident will be reviewed by commanders. That review is done after every chase.

He said the following in an email:

"The important point Independence Police wants to make is that every effort was made, as it is in each case, to prevent any pursuit if possible. Requests were made to KCPD and the Missouri Highway Patrol for aircraft to follow the suspect vehicle. However, none was available. The IPD road patrol officers were directed to set up at different intersections in order to "spike" the tires and they did so. Also, in each case, as in this one, public safety is the primary factor in determining whether a pursuit is initiated and/or terminated. If public safety is a concern the pursuit is either not initiated, or it is terminated. The public safety factor is weighed against the type of crime that's being dealt with to make sure public safety is maintained, and the public is also being served through crime and disorder reduction efforts. This pursuit was not a high speed chase, all of the suspect vehicle tires were flattened, which stopped the pursuit, and the suspect was apprehended. No one was injured."

To read the original coverage about this week's chase, click here.

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