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Are police spike strips to blame for a fatal car accident?

Last fall, two teens were involved in a fiery accident with a vehicle that was being chased by police after an incident that started with stolen pillows. Now the parents are suing the city and the driver of the truck that struck their boys, killing one and seriously injuring the other.

The fatal accident began when police responded to a report of stolen pillows and a comforter from a mall department store. Officers approached two people to make arrests, and the driver of the vehicle backed into a police department and then sped out of the parking law. Police followed the vehicle in a chase at up to 90 mph. Officers used spike strips in an intersection to stop the vehicle. Unfortunately, the two teens were at a red light at that intersection.

The fleeing vehicle lost control and struck the teens' car and another vehicle. Both burst into flames. One of the teens - a junior who sang in the school choir and volunteered at church - was killed. The other was seriously burned. An investigation found that the fleeing vehicle lost control when it sped over the spike strips.

In a lawsuit, the parents of the teens allege that police put their city at grave risk when they pursued the vehicle. Their argument, according to news reports, is that the officer who put the strip in the road know that it would be dangerous when a car it at a high rate of speed. According to witnesses, the fleeing vehicle could have gone through the intersection without a problem if it had not hit the spike strip.

The driver of the fleeing vehicle is also named in the suit.

Should police have pursued the vehicle so aggressively? It's a question that people in Phoenix as well as the city where this fatal accident happened should consider. Police are supposed to improve public safety, not hinder it.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "Lawsuit: Police 'spike strip' caused fiery crash that killed, injured teens," Erin Mulvaney, Feb. 7, 2013

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