A Mobile police official defended the agency’s vehicle pursuit policy as “very stringent” following a tragic crash that occurred early Sunday minutes after authorities called off a police chase.
Assistant Police Chief William Jackson said on Monday that police attempted to stop a vehicle for not having the proper tag sometime around 2:50 am at University Boulevard near Old Shell Road.
But the driver, identified as 18-year-old Jh’Isaiah Franklin of Prichard, led police on a chase that lasted for a slightly more than one minute, Jackson said.
A supervising sergeant called off the chase based on “weather conditions and speeds,” said Jackson, and the pursuit ended.
“About 45 seconds after it was discontinued, the officers drove up on the accident,” he said. “They didn’t know it had occurred.”
The crash occurred along a dark and winding stretch of Bear Fork Road near the University Boulevard intersection in west Mobile.
Pronounced dead on the scene was 19-year-old Kailyn Draine of Mobile, a backseat passenger who was ejected from the vehicle. Jackson said he was uncertain if she was wearing a seatbelt.
Two other passengers – Charity Mills, 22, of Mobile; and Jaylin Alexander, 18, of Mobile – were taken to USA Hospital where they were treated for injuries. Mills remains hospitalized where she is in serious but stable condition. Alexander has since been released.
Franklin was arrested and booked Sunday into Mobile Metro Jail on charges of homicide by vehicle and attempting to flee or elude an officer. He is scheduled to be in court for an 8:30 am bond hearing on Tuesday.
An investigation continues as authorities await the result of toxicology reports.
“We don’t know what caused him to flee other than he didn’t have a (vehicle) tag,” said Jackson. “He wasn’t wanted for anything. He didn’t have a criminal history. This could have been prevented if he stopped for a policeman when the lights came on.”
Said Jackson, “I want to offer condolences to the family of Kailyn Draine. This is an unfortunate event.”
The deadly result of the aborted chase in Mobile comes at a time when police agencies nationwide are reviewing their own policies for high-speed pursuits. Jackson said he was uncertain how fast Franklin was driving at the time he fled authorities following the initial pursuit.
Large cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati have instituted policies limiting authorities on when they can pursue a vehicle, according to a CNN story on the issue. The Cincinnati Police Department’s policy, implemented earlier this year, restricts police pursuits to only “violent felony offenses” only.
In Alabama, pursuits can be costly to taxpayers. The City of Birmingham, two years ago, was slapped with a $3.2 million verdict by a Jefferson County judge after one of its police officers, during an unauthorized police chase, slammed into a bystanders’ vehicle. Five people were injured.
Jackson said Mobile police review all its policies annually, but he said the agency’s police pursuit policy is among “the most stringent compared to other policies we’ve seen.”
Alabama state lawmakers could also make fleeing and eluding police a felony. A proposal is expected to be pitched during the spring legislative session that makes the offense a Class C felony, punishable for up to 10 years in prison.
Mobile police, according to its latest policy posted on the agency’s website, currently instructs officers “not to continue in motor-vehicle pursuits for traffic offenses, property crimes, whether felony or misdemeanor, or when the suspect flees for unknown reasons without the approval of the supervisor.”
“It relies a lot on the supervisor’s (discretion),” said Jackson. “There are a list of things to be considered (for cancellation to occur)… and there can be some things outside (the list) for what a supervisor cancels (a chase) for.”
According to Mobile police policy, the following factors – although not all-inclusive – are considerations for authorities to initiate, continue or terminate a pursuit:
- Nature of the violation
- time of day
- weather conditions
- road conditions
- speeds involved
- geographical location
- Population density
- Familiarity with the area
- Safety of the responding officer
- Safety of the occupants of the pursued vehicle
- Safety of innocent bystanders
- Whether the driver presents “imminent danger to the safety of others”
- The possibility of identifying the subject at a later time.