In the wake of the second State Patrol pursuit this year that ended with a crash in Minneapolis, family members of one of those killed Sunday are questioning the wisdom of a dangerous chase over a stolen car.
“Something’s got to change,” Natasha Gunderson said Sunday morning, at the scene of her cousin’s death. Early Sunday, Kimberly Gunderson, 48, died while a passenger in a pickup truck that was broadsided by a stolen SUV whose teenage driver was fleeing state troopers, authorities said.
The State Patrol said it had called off the pursuit before the crash, and it’s still investigating whether its policies were followed. But the deaths have once again drawn attention to the protocols of police chases. In Minnesota, 72 people died during police pursuits between 1996 and 2015, according to a report released last year by the U.S. Department of Justice. Of those, 28 were not occupants of the chased vehicle.
The Minnesota State Patrol’s policy calls for a pursuit to be discontinued “when there is a clear and unreasonable danger to the trooper, fleeing motorist or other persons.”
It also says a trooper should “give stronger and continuing consideration” to cutting off a pursuit when the suspect is wanted for a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony, can be identified and when officers have enough information for an arrest warrant.
AnnDee Gunderson, another of Kimberly Gunderson’s cousins, said she’s hoping this deadly crash will feed debate about the policy and the safety of pursuits. “I just keep thinking ‘Why?’ ” she said, wiping away tears. “Why do lives have to be lost over this, over a stolen vehicle?”
Natasha and AnnDee Gunderson’s call for change comes just three months after Kyle Peltier expressed a similar sentiment. Three of Peltier’s children were injured when a speeding SUV crashed into a north Minneapolis playground following a chase by the State Patrol.
City Council Member Alondra Cano, who represents the ward where Sunday’s crash took place, said Sunday she intends to review how law enforcement goes about pursuits on city streets.
“I am very concerned with what seems to have been an intense car chase in residential streets that escalated into a situation that ended up causing three deaths,” Cano said in an e-mail.