A Trotwood police officer decided against pursuing a speeding car moments before the fleeing vehicle hit a Greater Dayton RTA bus, killing two car passengers as it burst into flames, the police chief said Thursday.
The officer turned on the cruiser’s overhead lights as she saw the speeding Pontiac go through an intersection late Sunday and followed it north on Ohio 49, but “made a snap decision that I’m not going after this car,” Trotwood Police Chief Erik Wilson said.
“At no time was a Trotwood police department vehicle chasing this vehicle or was any other police department chasing this vehicle,” Wilson said during a news conference Thursday, the first public comments from police since Sunday evening.
“There was no chase,” said Wilson, who did not release the officer’s identity.
A pair of teens – Mya’nie Nabors, 15, of Trotwood, and Kyren Wright, 18, of Dayton – were killed in the wreck. The car’s driver – Christopher Baker, 18, of Dayton – is in critical condition, but “I’m told he’s not going to make it,” Wilson said.
Trotwood has a “strict” policy on police pursuits with one requirement being the vehicle has to be suspected of a violent crime, Wilson said. Not all departments have a violent crime provision, an element backed by some who support a uniform pursuit policy in Ohio.
It’s not clear how fast the car driven by Baker was going, Wilson said, although the RTA earlier stated it was traveling more than 100 miles an hour. The Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating the fatal wreck, he said.
Cruiser camera video, which shows 60 seconds of footage prior to an officer activating the overhead lights, showed the crash happen and the Trotwood officer exiting her cruiser to run to the aid of the crash victims.
The car was suspect because it had illegal license plates, Wilson said.
Nabors and Wright were among seven to die in multiple traffic accidents in Greene and Montgomery counties in a 31-hour stretch this past weekend. It was the deadliest weekend for traffic wrecks in those counties combined since at least 2014, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The last of those fatalities was in Trotwood. The wreck, Wilson said, happened when an officer was on routine patrol.
She was sitting at an intersection near the Storage of America and Lowe’s locations on Shiloh Springs Road around 5:20 p.m. when she noticed a vehicle with heavily tinted windows and an expired registration, Wilson said.
The officer turned onto Shiloh Springs and began following the vehicle without her overhead lights activated, Wilson said. The car made an illegal right turn onto Ohio 49 south at Shiloh Springs.
As the car traveled south on Ohio 49, the Trotwood officer activated her overhead lights as she approached Turner Road for a couple seconds, before deciding not to pursue the vehicle, Wilson said.
The Trotwood officer was decelerating as the car approached the Free Pike and Ohio 49 intersection, which is where the car collided with an RTA bus.
Wilson said the crash is a community tragedy resulting from bad choices.
“Our youth, we have to make sound and wise choices,” he said. “That’s what this boils down to. These are bad choices that were made out there.”
Wright was last enrolled at Dunbar Early College High School on Feb. 22 of this year, according to Dayton Public Schools. Baker is also a former DPS student, last enrolled at Meadowdale High School March 17, 2018, DPS officials said in an email.
Nabors was a student at Trotwood-Madison High School, authorities said, and the school brought in counselors after her death.
At least five area deaths in the past year have resulted from suspects fleeing police.
The number of deaths involved in law enforcement pursuits prompted state Rep. and former Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer to talk with Gov. Mike DeWine about uniform rules for them and stricter penalties for those who flee.
Standardized police pursuit guidelines in been an issue in recent years. As attorney general in 2016, DeWine commissioned a task force to examine the topic after a 2016 fatal, high-speed Huber Heights police pursuit that ended with the death of a third-party driver.
The 2017 task force report went to Ohio’s nearly 1,000 law enforcement agencies with a list of “best practices” of when and how to pursue.
Under the initiation of pursuit procedures, the advisory group’s report states, “the policy should distinguish violent felonies and property offenses, or OVIs and traffic violations.”
The basic offense of fleeing or eluding is considered a first-degree misdemeanor in Ohio, although fleeing or eluding also can be a felony under some circumstances. Currently, the penalty for misdemeanor fleeing or eluding is up to 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.