NAACP demands harsher penalty for drivers who cause deadly crashes while fleeing police

Organization also plans to spearhead review of pursuit policies across Montgomery County jurisdictions.

The Dayton Unit NAACP is seeking harsher penalties for drivers who cause deadly crashes while fleeing police and for uniform law enforcement policies regarding when to pursue a suspect.

The local NAACP during a media briefing Thursday afternoon at its headquarters at 915 Salem Ave. called for “Colby’s Law” following the Monday evening pursuit and crash on U.S. 35 near Drexel that killed motorist Colby A. Ross, 35, of Dayton, who was not involved in the chase.

“Our hearts are heavy to see a young man who’s come from a family that has done nothing but good inside this community, a young man who has lost his life at the hands of a reckless, dangerous, insensitive driver and we are calling upon the full-scale power coming from the prosecutor’s office and the police department, to ensure that this young lady pays the price for killing this man through her reckless behaviors,” said Derrick Foward, president of the local civil rights organization.

A Butler Twp. police officer broadcast around 4:40 p.m. Monday that a white SUV was wanted for felony failure to comply charges. The SUV’s driver fled from police during rush hour on Interstate 75 in a construction zone, Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said Tuesday. About three hours later, a sheriff’s detective spotted the SUV on Free Pike Avenue and used a tire deflation device. The driver fled and a deputy initiated a pursuit with aerial support from a law enforcement partner.

Dash camera video released Tuesday of the pursuit shows the woman speed away, losing its rear right tire and at one point complete about four full spins on while headed south on state Route 49, either crashing or almost crashing into another car. There were several times the SUV would start to pull over, but then would take off. At one point a deputy almost boxed in the SUV, but the driver was able to continue its flight on south Route 49, running stop signs at busy intersections. The SUV ultimately crashed into a BMW convertible driven by Ross, who died of his injuries at Miami Valley Hospital.

“This young lady had the opportunity to stop on numerous occasions throughout this pursuit,” Foward said. “Not only that, she is also an individual who has run from police before, so we need to make certain that we are doing everything — the full weight of the law — to hold this young lady accountable for this death.

“She is the culprit in the cause of Colby Ross’ death. Make no mistake about it. It’s not the police’s fault that this individual is dead,” Foward said.

The driver, a 50-year-old Trotwood woman, is in the Montgomery County Jail on $25,000 bail for traffic violations from last year, records show. The Dayton Daily News is not naming her because she is not formally charged in Monday’s chase and crash.

The Rev. David Fox, a retired law enforcement officer who chairs the local NAACP’s criminal justice committee, said typically someone accused of causing a fatal crash during a chase faces aggravated vehicular homicide or vehicular homicide charges.

However, he said the law should be strengthened to a murder statute “because that person knowingly, knowingly is fleeing from a police officer … and knowingly ran into somebody.”

Charges of fleeing and eluding and failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer also should be increased to higher level felonies, Fox and Foward said.

“Too many people are dying in these police pursuits,” Foward said. “If the police are asking you to stop, you need to stop.”

The call for harsher penalties mirrors those of Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr., who in March called for enhanced penalties for suspects who flee from police. The prosecutor’s announcement followed the case of a Florida man who was shot and wounded by police in January after he fired shots at officers during a chase on U.S. 35 that ended into a crash into two cruisers.

“Police pursuits can be extremely dangerous, not only for the officers but also for pedestrians and other innocent motorists,” Heck said. “We are seeing an increase in the number of defendants who flee from police and it is time to put an end to this reckless behavior.”

The prosecutor proposed temporarily — or in some cases permanently — suspending driver’s license of people who flee from police.

In addition to the legislative augmentation, the local NAACP said it will lead a task force review of pursuit policies across Montgomery County law enforcement jurisdictions.

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