Radio calls from fatal chase. Did DPS obey chase policy?

CREATED Jul. 11, 2011

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  • DPS releases radio call recordings from a chase that left an innocent driver dead. Video by kgun9.com

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TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Nine months after a chase on I-10 that left an innocent driver dead, DPS has released recordings of the radio calls that day.
       
KGUN 9 On Your Side has been listening to the tapes to see how well DPS adhered to a chase policy that lists its top priority as the safety of citizens and officers.

DPS officers chased Joel Morando about 30 miles before they finally caught him.

As the chase roared past Ronald Papanikolas he lost control, crashed and died.

The lead unit was King 126.  As the officer called off the mile markers whizzing by, he reported speeds as high as 120.

One call said: "King 126 at 229, 120 at 6:59."

DPS chase policy says officers should not chase vehicles for transporting undocumented aliens, non-hazardous traffic violations or equipment violations.
        
King 126 said he stopped the driver for a routine violation but the driver bolted when a drug dog indicated drugs in the car.

Radio call: "Closest unit advising pursuit.  126. Vehicle going eastbound, eastbound from 213.  White Pontiac four door.  Dispatcher: 10-4. And reason? Positive 309 dog alerted."
     
That was the only time we heard anyone question the justification for the search.
      
DPS policy says the lead vehicle is the chase commander unless someone higher up takes control.
      
King 126 was the lead but we don't hear him co-ordinating resources other than to ask if the DPS helicopter is available.

Radio call: "Is Tucson Ranger available?"
      
The chase policy says officers may set spike strips to deflate tires.
       
On this chase, officers set strips three times.

Radio call:"Vehicle missed the spikes."

Officers say as Joel Morando dodged one set of spikes he made Ronald Papanikolas lose control and crash.

"962" is the DPS code for a collision with injuries.

Radio call: "At this 962 we do have a pulse at this time."
        
But soon, that changed.

Radio call:"We lost the pulse. Doing compressions now."

Officers say when they did stop Joel Morando they found about 150 pounds of marijuana in his trunk but even 9 months after the incident, DPS has not said if that justified the chase.
      
The policy does say if they can identify the car and driver well enough to track them down later they should stop the chase. 
      
It's not clear if they had a plate and drivers license from the traffic stop Morando ran from.