Innocent motorist killed during police chase
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Innocent motorist killed during police chase

Wednesday, October 26, 2011By Richard Alexander
A high speed police pursuit is the cause of yet another death in the Bay Area this time in Contra Costa County. The fatality occurred when police attempted to stop a man for talking on a cell phone while driving without using a hands free device.

The incident began in Concord around 6 p.m. Tuesday when an officer saw a man in a white pickup truck talking on his cell phone without the required hands-free device and attempted to pull him over according to police.

The man, who was later identified as Mauro Gutierrez, 25, of Concord refused to stop and led the officer on a chase. The pursuit ended when Gutierrez crashed into a 1985 BMW on Solano Way near Highway 242, police said.

According to police Gutierrez was arrested after a short foot chase. He was booked at Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez on suspicion of manslaughter, being a felon in possession of a firearm, evading arrest causing great bodily injury or death, vehicle theft and obstructing police.

A passenger in the truck, Joshua Simmons, 24 of Concord was also arrested, on suspicion of carrying a concealed, loaded firearm, being a felon in possession of a firearm and a drug violation. Both men are parolees and are being held without bail on parole holds.

Undoubtedly these men are not upstanding citizens out for an afternoon drive but it calls into questions the pursuit policy of  police when they are engage in a high speed pursuit of a vehicle whose occupants only know infraction of the law at the time of the pursuit was not using a hands free device and failure to stop for police.

The end result was the death of the man driving the BMW.  The victim's name hasn't been released.

The case is under investigation by police and the Contra Costa County district attorney's office. The driver's death will also be the subject of a coroner's inquest, which does not address policies mandating police pursuits.

In the Bay Area, other innocent motorists have been severely injured and killed in recent years in Berkeley, El Sobrante, Hayward and San Francisco as a result of suspects fleeing from police. One of those cases, litigated by Alexander Law Group, LLP,  resulted in an award of $1.7 million for a man who suffered severe brain injuries after the CHP engaged in an illegal pursuit.

Most law-enforcement agencies allow officers to chase suspects in stolen cars or those wanted for serious crimes, yet none of those conditions were present at the time of this pursuit. Concord police said although they wanted to stop Gutierrez for a cell-phone violation, it was unclear why he allegedly fled.

There is an investigation into the details of the chase, including how long it lasted and how fast the suspect was going. But is that enough? Is talking on a cell phone without a hands free device and not stopping for police  justification for a high speed pursuit, in a heavy traffic area in the middle of rush hour traffic?

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