A Los Angeles police cruiser dash camera shows officers chased a fleeing motorist at high speed for at least 80 seconds before the suspect ran a red light and collided with a another car, killing two people inside.
Officers elected to turn off their lights and siren and halt the pursuit just seconds before the fatal collision that claimed the lives of Janisha Harris, 35, and Jamarea Keyes, 38, as seen in LAPD video of the August 19 incident.
The release of the LAPD recording comes a day after LAPD Chief Michel Moore announced he had decided to release the videos after requests from the couple’s family members.
Activists and the families’ attorney had accused the LAPD of covering up its role in the deaths after a police report revealed that two 77th Street officers in the department chased the speeding motorist shortly time before the fatal accident. This report contradicted an initial LAPD statement that there was no prosecution.
“The officers were engaged in a high-speed pursuit,” said Jasmine Mines, an attorney for the two families, alleging that responsibility for the deadly events lay with the LAPD. She said the chase continued down four streets and lasted over a minute, only really stopping when officers saw a red light ahead with a busy intersection. “Even when the sirens went off, the officers were clearly in pursuit.”
There has been a debate for years about when police should chase away suspects who refuse to stop and when conditions are dangerous enough for officers to walk away. A 2017 LA County grand jury report found local police are “causing unnecessary injuries and deaths to bystanders” and law enforcement needs better training to reduce the risk of accident during high-speed chases.
Tanya Keyes, the widow of Jamarea Keyes, said the video showed the officers never backed down. “We will get justice,” she said. “We won’t stop.” Keyes left behind four children; Harris left a son and a daughter.
In an account of the incident released by the LAPD, Capt. Kelly Muniz said officers spotted the speeding green 2006 Cadillac on 80th and San Pedro streets going in the opposite direction and turned back to 4:12 a.m.
Officers attempted to overtake the Cadillac, which made several turns, and intermittently used the cruiser’s lights and sirens “independently” to signal to stop. Yet the suspect, later identified as Matthew Sutton, ignored them and continued on the run.
There was no sound for the first minute of the police cruiser’s front-facing camera video as the officers’ cruiser chased the Cadillac, sometimes a few feet from its rear bumper. Sirens can be heard continuously in the last 15-20 seconds of the video.
Muniz said that because the driver continued to accelerate, officers opted to turn off their headlights and siren, “indicating they would no longer attempt to stop the vehicle. Moments later, the Cadillac driver ran a red three-phase [light] at the intersection of Manchester and Broadway and collided with a 2015 BMW 535I traveling south on Broadway. The officer’s body camera video captured the mangled wreckage of four vehicles in the large intersection.
Mines, an attorney for the families, alleges the LAPD cruiser did not stop pursuing the Cadillac and simply turned off its lights and sirens just before the red light and the fatal crash with the getaway car doing about 70 mph. Harris and Keyes were driving home from work on the morning of August 19 when the speeding motorist ran through the red light, slamming into the side of their BMW.
A police spokesman initially denied that the 77th Street Police Department police cruiser initiated the chase. But The Times obtained a police report saying it was “determined that 77th Patrol Unit 12A51 was in pursuit of the vehicle at the time of the accident”. In response to the report, an LAPD statement said, “Upon further review, it has been determined that officers were in pursuit for 15 seconds. They stopped the pursuit prior to the collision.
Los Angeles Times