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Vallejo experiences the second fatal police chase within a few daysVallejo experiences the second fatal police chase within a few days
A white Dodge Durango burns out after a police chase on June 8, 2024, in Vallejo, California. The driver of the suspected stolen vehicle was killed in the crash. (Courtesy of Lizz Blanco, via Vallejo Crime and Safety)

For the second time in a matter of days, a police chase in Vallejo ended in a fatal accident less than 90 seconds after it began.

The pursuit began around 11 p.m. Monday when Vallejo police officer Dynelle Jones noticed a white 2014 Dodge Durango that had been reported stolen in San Francisco heading north on Couch Street, police said. When backup arrived, police tried to pull the driver over, but the driver did not stop, sparking a chase through the city. The Dodge initially fled at about 35 mph, Jones estimated, but the chase soon reached 80 mph on the country roads.

Jones declined to comment by phone Tuesday. In an interview Wednesday, Vallejo police spokesman Sergeant Rashad Hollis said Jones was not the lead officer in the pursuit. He declined to provide that officer’s name.

With police at his back, the male driver turned south onto Broadway and attempted to turn east onto Alabama Street. There, his vehicle crashed through a steel fence and crashed into the front yard of a building at 228 Broadway Street. Smoke and flames rose near the front of the vehicle, according to audio recordings and witness photos reviewed by Open Vallejo.

Police ordered the driver to exit the burning vehicle but received no response, said a neighbor named Sofia, who declined to give her last name.

“We need fire out here Now,” a Vallejo police sergeant told a dispatcher as the flames grew.

While firefighters were still en route, officers shattered a passenger window with a 40mm submachine gun, pulled the driver from the vehicle and began CPR. The male driver did not survive, Hollis told Open Vallejo. Sergeant Rex Hawkins, a spokesman for the Solano County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office, confirmed that his agency recovered a body for transport to the county morgue the night of the crash, but could not provide further details.

On Tuesday morning, traces of the accident were still visible at the scene: a blackened tree, a broken window and a corner of a building that had partially collapsed due to the impact. Twisted steel fences and the vehicle’s grille lay scattered in the yard.

A close-up of a damaged area behind a metal fence. Vegetation and parts of a broken car, including a bumper and license plate, can be seen between the bushes. A white pickup truck drives down the road in the background.A close-up of a damaged area behind a metal fence. Vegetation and parts of a broken car, including a bumper and license plate, can be seen between the bushes. A white pickup truck drives down the road in the background.
The day after the fatal collision, vehicle parts and other debris were scattered throughout the accident scene. (Geoffrey King / Open Vallejo)

Monday’s fatal crash came less than three days after another police chase in Vallejo that began with an alleged traffic violation and ended with a crash less than a half-mile away. A passenger in the suspect vehicle died and five other people were taken to local hospitals.

According to a Vallejo police report released in March, chases have increased 131% since 2018 and 33% from 2022 to 2023. Last year, four people were killed while fleeing police, including a 76-year-old man who was crushed between two parked cars outside his home last October. In contrast, police officers in Vallejo have shot and killed two people in the last five years.

Experts have long been aware of the risks associated with high-speed chases. In 2023, the Police Executive Research Forum released a report recommending that law enforcement agencies should only initiate a chase when a suspect has committed a violent crime and there is an imminent danger of doing so again.

While some jurisdictions have taken steps to reduce the number of chases or eliminate them altogether, others have rolled back such restrictions. In March, San Francisco voters approved a proposal that relaxed the city’s regulations on police chases. The rollback came shortly after a San Francisco Chronicle investigation found that at least 3,336 people have died in police chases nationwide since 2017. The vast majority of those chases involve drivers suspected of minor offenses, such as traffic violations or nonviolent crimes, the newsroom’s investigation found.

Car crashes have cost Vallejo millions of dollars over the past decade. For example, in 2014, Vallejo Police Officer Joel Caitham crashed into a Toyota Corrola driven by Rene Andriano, who spent two weeks in the hospital as a result of the crash, the Vallejo-Times Herald reported. In 2016, the city settled a lawsuit brought by Andriano for $2.1 million, one of the largest civil rights settlements involving Vallejo police.