After latest deadly chase, critics call for change in police pursuit policies

4:28 PM, Jul 14, 2011   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- For the third time in just two months, a police pursuit in the Bay area has ended with an innocent person killed.

Late Wednesday night, a St. Petersburg man died after his vehicle was broadsided by a car being chased by Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies.

Kathy Ryan saw the images on the morning news, but then found out it was her neighbor from just down the block, 50-year-old Richard Trompke, who'd been killed.

It's hard for Ryan to hold back the tears when she thinks about it. Trompke is the latest innocent victim of a high-speed police pursuit.

"I mean, I understand the police's point of view to get the person that's done something. But sometimes you've got to think about where you're doing it and why you're doing it," said Ryan.

Investigators say it started when Pinellas County deputies stopped 28-year-old Stacy Lynn Naples for suspicious activity. There was also another woman and a 5-year-old child in the car, they say.

During that traffic stop, investigators say Naples tried to take off, nearly running over one of the deputies.

At that point, officials say Naples' actions met the department's  criteria of "imminent public danger" for a police pursuit.

Marianne Pasha, a spokesperson for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, says a second deputy saw what happened.

"He actually witnessed the attempted assault with a vehicle and that was felony, enough to begin a pursuit and try to arrest that individual," she said.

The accident is the latest in a recent series of police-chase-related fatalities.

In May, Pasco deputies pursued a DUI suspect into Hernando county. The driver plowed through an intersection, killing 66-year-old motorcyclist Henry McCain during the chase.

Less than two weeks ago, Hernando County Sheriff's Deputy John Mecklenburg was killed pursuing a suspected felon when his cruiser struck a tree.

At Trompke's St. Petersburg home, a friend said the 50-year old had no immediate family, but did have several friends in the area. He was a music enthusiast, they said, and had recently taken a leave of absence from work for surgery related to a battle with Parkinson's disease.

Ray Tampa, a community activist and former NAACP president in St. Petersburg, has been an outspoken critic of police chases.  He says deputies should never have chased Naples if they knew there was a child in the car.

He wants to see stronger criteria put in place to initiate pursuits. And if local agencies won't do that, he thinks the state should issue uniform guidelines.

"I really want the bad guys to be arrested, but I don't want them arrested at all costs. And all costs means putting innocent people's lives in jeopardy," said Tampa.

Stacy Naples, nor any of her passengers, were hurt in the crash. Hours later, she was released on bond, charged with drug possession, fleeing police and vehicular homicide.

Pinellas County Sheriff's officials say they will review their pursuit policy as is the case every time a chase that leads to an incident.

If they determine changes need to be made, they promise to implement them.

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