A 28-year-old man is being held in Wyandotte County Jail after he reportedly crashed during a police chase and killed an innocent motorist.
Graciela E. Olivas, 62, of KCK, died Monday night at an area hospital from her injuries. She was the mother of KCTV5 reporter Sandra Olivas, two sons who are area firefighters and a second daughter, who is a nursing student.
Graciela Olivas was near her home when authorities say Christopher B. Stewart crashed into her vehicle about 6:45 p.m. Monday. Stewart ran on foot but was caught by the pursuing KCK police officers, authorities said.
Stewart is being held on two charges in the Wyandotte County Jail, including aggravated battery.
The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
Edmond Brancart, chief deputy for the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office, said Tuesday morning that troopers have consulted with prosecutors but have not forwarded the case file yet to the office.
The devastated family is mourning their loss.
"The family wishes to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. Graciela was a beloved wife, mother and grandmother. She was the center of our lives and words cannot express our immense grief and sadness," the Olivas family said in a statement. "We ask that you respect our privacy at this time."
KCK police said they saw Stewart commit two traffic violations while leaving an area known for its drug activity. Troopers initially said the area was at 27th Street and Shawnee Drive, but now say the start of the chase is under investigation.
Officers tried to stop Stewart, who continued to commit traffic violations while driving eastbound on Shawnee Drive in a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu.
As Stewart was fleeing, he hit Graciela Olivas' 2005 Chevy Cobalt near 34th Street and Shawnee Drive. She was traveling north on 34th Street and Stewart ran the stop sign, KHP patrol troopers said.
"He drove her into the ditch and he pretty much followed her," said Trooper Howard Dickinson. "He then bailed and ran on foot. Kansas City, KS has him in custody."
Graciela Olivas was wearing her seatbelt while Stewart was not.
Stewart was taken to the University of Kansas Hospital, where he was treated for his injuries, and then booked into jail. Graciela Olivas was taken to the same hospital, where she died a few hours later.
The chase lasted about 10 blocks, Dickinson said.
Stewart served about two years in prison on a drug charge, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.
KCTV5 has been following police chases that injure and kill innocent motorists. The most recent one occurred in January.
A relative, Elva Hernandez, remembered Graciela Olivas' wonderful and caring spirit.
"Graciela didn't deserve this, and her kids didn't deserve this. It's just horrible," Hernandez said. "My Nina was an awesome woman, an awesome woman. She was the nicest woman."
She said she and her son, Raymond, want to know whether the police pursuit was necessary, saying they have their doubts about chases in residential areas.
"Is it that bad they had to chase them into the city?" she asked.
KCK police refused to provide to KCTV5 a copy of its chase protocols and policies.
Hernandez said the family appreciates the outpouring of support they have received as word has spread.
"We need your prayers and the family thanks everyone for their prayers," Hernandez said.
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