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Tougher penalty for fleeing officer

Published (2/18/2011)
By Mike Cook
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On Nov. 1, 2007, Mark Bedard, an officer with the Minneapolis Park Police, was in pursuit of two suspects in a pair of drive-by shootings.

After the suspects bailed from their vehicle, the chase continued on foot. Bedard was hit by a squad car in an alley. He died nine days later from the injuries he sustained, leaving behind a wife and 3-year-old son.

Because Bedard’s injuries occurred during a foot chase, the suspects could not be charged with the death of a police officer. They pleaded guilty to felony drive-by shooting and received sentences of less than four years behind bars.

“This bill modifies the crime of fleeing a peace officer when the result of doing so results in a death that does not constitute murder or manslaughter,” said Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove), who sponsors HF361. “This bill specifically targets situations where a suspect starts to flee in a motor vehicle, but abandons that vehicle and continues to flee using other means. … This will punish those that make this choice and hold them fully accountable for the lives they affect, and hopefully deter people from fleeing peace officers.”

Approved Feb. 15 by most of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee — at least two audible “no” votes were heard — it next goes to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.

“The current flee-on-foot statute does not address penalties for causing serious harm or death to others if pursuit of a felonious criminal goes from vehicle to foot,” said Anne Deneen, a patrol sergeant with the Minneapolis Park Police. “This is a loophole easily remedied by this bill. … When a pursuit ends with the occupants still in the car, they can be charged for all the harm they have caused by their actions.”

David Brown, an assistant Hennepin County attorney, doesn’t foresee the proposed changes being used often if this becomes law. “But when it does, I hope we can hold those folks accountable,” he said.

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