HOUSTON — Audio recordings from a multi-agency law enforcement pursuit give picture of what was happening moments before a deadly crash involving a 16-year-old driver who was allegedly fleeing from authorities.
The pursuit ended when the girl struck a sedan, killing the passenger and injuring the driver.
In the audio recordings, Houston Police Department officers can be heard giving the instruction to other HPD units to shut off their lights and sirens and pull back.
However, not every agency involved in the pursuit got that message.
“That initial chase lasted several minutes, ended up south of us,” said HPD Lt. R. Willkens.
Willkens said police chased the red Lexus at first as it raced out of town but stopped when they learned more about the circumstances surrounding the alleged auto theft and the driver of the vehicle.
“Found out that it was a 16-year-old girl,” Willkens said. “They found out that she supposedly had mental issues and that she’d taken her mother’s car. So now she was more or less a runaway.”
During the initial pursuit, an HPD sergeant made the decision to end the chase.
“He advised his units and everyone around that we were not going to pursue, we were not going to chase this vehicle,” Willkens said. “That if we did see her again, they would try to stop her, but we were going to be using lights and sirens and we were not going to chasing her or try to push her.”
The audio recordings from the pursuit confirm these directives to the HPD officers:
“We're not -- we're not going to pursue her again. If we can get her while she's stopped, we'll get her while she's stopped. But if she takes off, it's not worth it. She's not acting too crazy.”
“Again to all units, we're not going to chase. She's too erratic,” an HPD officer said. “It's too dangerous.
As the Lexus drove south, the HPD units are joined by officers from other agencies and jurisdictions.
Webster Police and League City Police said they didn’t know a teenager who’d taken her mom’s car was the erratic driver, and they never got the message not to chase.
An HPD officer in the audio recording can be heard requesting that dispatch notify other offices to end their chase.
“Let's just back off right now,” the office said. “Dispatch, can you notify League City to back off of her, and just let her be?”
“There's somebody behind her with their lights on,” an HPD officer said.
“Yeah, that's not us,” another officer said. “I think that's League City.”
“More units coming up with lights and sirens,” said another officer.
“Two units, three units, chasing her now,” an HPD officer said.
“See if we can get them to disengage,” an officer replied. “That way we can get her to slow down. And then I can get to place and then put some spikes out.”
“I need them to all get them message, I need them to all turn them off,” another HPD officer said.
Approximately 30 seconds later, the teen crashed into the car with the man and woman.
League City Police said they believe the HPD officers in the recording confused the Webster PD units with theirs.
Webster PD said its units were following the speeding Lexus with lights and sirens, but they said they were not right up behind the vehicle and followed at a distance.
Both departments said they did not know the details of who was driving the Lexus or that HPD considered her a runaway.
Webster PD and League City PD said situations like these are made more difficult for their officers because HPD is on a different radio frequency, hindering communication among the agencies when their paths cross.