NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah — Newly released dash cam video reveals the moments leading up to a deadly crash that killed a beloved Salt Lake City baker, and left her close friend in the hospital.
It appears to show a supervisor talking about terminating the chase with the officer, but the officer does not terminate the chase until the crash 20 seconds later, saying that he was trying to get the truck's plate number before terminating the chase.
North Salt Lake Police posted the 30-minute dash cam video Friday, which shows the moments before, during, and after the pursuit of a suspected drunk driver into a Salt Lake City neighborhood.
The crash killed Thy Vu Mims, a wife and mother of two who was well-known in the community for her bakery business.
Law enforcement experts, upon reviewing the video, explained to Fox 13 why many agencies would not have taken the same actions or pursued the truck for that long, if at all.
The chase lasted around four minutes on Saturday, October 16.
The dash cam video shows the officer follow the truck, which appears to run a red light in North Salt Lake. The officer turns on his sirens as he navigates the red-light intersection, catching up to the truck at another red light.
The truck takes off, and the driver begins to drift out of the lane. It heads onto I-15 south, and the officer continues to pursue.
As the truck's speed increases, the driver weaves around cars, and almost hits other vehicles. At one point, the truck does actually hit another vehicle at I-15, and continues driving.
Chris Bertram, retired Deputy Chief of Police at Unified Police Department, who is also an assistant professor of criminal justice and a private investigator, watched and analyzed the dash cam.
He started off by explaining that high speed pursuits are governed by three things: Policy of the agency, training of the officer when it comes to pursuits, and supervision of the officer(s) during that pursuit.
"Decisions have to be made by the officers and by their supervisors every 15 to 30 seconds in a pursuit as to whether we're going to continue this," Bertram explained.
In this case, the situation rapidly changes as the truck weaves in and out of traffic and almost hits multiple vehicles on I-15. At one point, the officer falls so far behind the truck, the dash cam loses sight of it.
But the officer continues to pursue.
"There is a lot of traffic. It's a Saturday mid-day and that is absolutely you can see that another car gets hit. There are near-misses on the highway," Bertram said, describing the video and chase. "And so again, that decision of why we are chasing the vehicle, what is the criminal violation, is that worth the risk to the public as we continue in on that chase?"
In this case, Bertram pointed out that the violation of DUI would have been a misdemeanor.
He further added that based on it being a misdemeanor offense, many agencies in the valley would have simply called the chase off.
Some agencies may have not pursued the truck at all, turning around the moment the truck ran the red light in North Salt Lake, he said. Others may have called it off upon entering the freeway. If not at that point, then others may have called the chase off when the truck exited the freeway and entered a busy residential neighborhood, Bertam indicated.
Especially considering the truck was speeding through the narrow neighborhood roads and driving into oncoming traffic to pass other cars.
"Majority of police departments, in my experience, in this type of a situation, probably would have discontinued the chase," Bertram said. "Salt Lake City, since the early '92, has had a real no pursuit policy unless it's a violent felony."
The audio in the dash cam appears to relay dialogue between the officer and supervisor about terminating the crash.
"If he gets erratic or starts going into other lanes or something, you need to terminate," the supervisor is heard saying.
At this point, the truck had already swerved into the oncoming lane to pass another car.
The officer responds, "I copy," and says something about the license plate, but continues the pursuit. Less than 20 seconds later, the supervisor asks if the officer got a plate number. "Negative," the officer responds, "I'm trying to get a plate, so I can terminate myself."
Right at that moment, the driver runs a stop sign and T-bones a vehicle, killing Mims and critically injuring her friend.
Police later arrested the driver and booked him into jail on several charges.