Two respected and well-liked citizens of metro Atlanta were killed by a driver fleeing Johns Creek Police late Thursday evening. Kryzysztof Krawczynski and Elzbieta Gurtler-Krawczynska were killed when a car, driven by Larry Thomas, struck the couple's vehicle during a high-speed police chase. Jesse Thomas (the driver's son) was also in the car and is charged as an accomplice.
Larry and Jesse Thomas are 100% “legally” responsible and will be prosecuted and convicted for the deaths of the elderly couple. However, the senseless deaths of the two retired CDC researchers should once again bring attention to the needlessness of high-speed police chases.
That being said, from both a moral and practical point of view, why are police still engaging in these kinds of deadly chases? The risk to the public far outweighs the need to catch even a dangerous criminal. Furthermore, technology can and should resolve such problems. The news media, for example, used helicopters to follow the fleeing car. Streets can be closed, and metal spike strips can be put out to blow out a criminal's tires, if necessary.
It is not fair to expect the police to be NASCAR drivers while out on patrol looking for crime suspects. We should not be putting their lives at risk or causing them to have to live with guilt the rest of their lives of seriously injuring or killing someone. Instead, cell phone calls can be tracked through triangulation and GPS. Surely a driver fleeing from police will make a phone call shortly after any chase; then the police can safely make an arrest.
Again, the police are not legally liable; however, they are principally responsible for the deaths of two innocent people. Although unscientific, the overwhelming opinion on the AJC website is that the chase was unnecessary. The public seems to understand the safety of innocents needs to take precedence over catching any criminal suspect. Most of the time those same suspects will later be apprehended through patient police work. There was simply no reason for Kryzysztof Krawczynski and Elzbieta Gurtler-Krawczynska to die.
I hope Larry and Jesse Thomas spend the next 30 years in jail (15 years for Vehicular Homicide for each victim) thinking about what they have done. I also hope our police think about the part they played as well.
*** article note: Jesse Thomas was charged as a party to the crime of 2 counts of felony vehicular homicide. In Georgia, a party to a crime can be charged and convicted as if they are the principal offender, See O.C.G.A. § 16-2-20.