Parents of the two teenagers killed in a collision related to a police chase are seeking answers.
“Why? Why at 8 on a Saturday was there a police chase through a residential area, a busy intersection, over a stolen vehicle?” said Karoline Meadows, mother of Katarina Peeters, 17.
Peeters died Oct. 20 along with Jacob Barber, 18, in a two-car collision and two other teenagers were seriously injured. Police have accused Shawn Welsh, 36, of driving a stolen 2000 Chevrolet Silverado when it crashed into a 2000 Honda Accord at the intersection of U.S. 31W and Battle Training Road on the south end of Radcliff. Barber was driving the Accord.
Welsh was indicted on murder charges last week. He’s also facing charges in Meade County related to the pursuit, which began in Flaherty.
Barber’s mother, Sharon Combs, and Meadows have questions about the pursuit, which lasted 18 minutes and covered 21 miles.
“It’s no longer just about Kat and Jacob,” Combs said last week. “We want to save others from this heartache. Our son didn’t die in vain. ... Nobody should have to go through this.”
Meade County Sheriff’s Office initiated the pursuit after a vehicle tried to hit a deputy. Vine Grove police and Radcliff police departments also were involved. The agencies directly involved declined to provide more information on the pursuit at this time, citing an open investigation.
The News-Enterprise reviewed pursuit protocols for local law-enforcement agencies, which were obtained through open records requests. Meade County Sheriff’s Office has yet to respond to an open records request.
Most have a limited pursuit policy with restrictions on what kind of offenses officers can pursue as well as in what conditions. Serious felonies such as homicide, assault or robbery would be grounds for a pursuit or if the driving conduct poses a threat to other motorists and pedestrians.
Elizabethtown Police Chief Jamie Land said the purpose of the policy is to ensure the public’s safety during pursuits, which sometimes are necessary.
“We want to be sure that if we are going to do something this dangerous, we are being as safe as we can and make sure the public is as safe as it can be,” he said.
Land and Hardin County Sheriff John Ward said the crash Oct. 20 is the worst possible outcome of a pursuit.
“What happened (Oct. 20) is absolutely awful,” Land said. “No one is going to be able to take back what they did. No agency wants to have (that) happen.”
Ward and Chief Deputy David Lee said the public comes first during a pursuit.
“You have to consider the public,” Lee said.
Pursuit protocols are aimed at reducing risk by outlining what offenses officers should pursue, what factors to consider, how to end a pursuit and the review process, officials said.
Policies for Elizabethtown, Radcliff and Vine Grove police departments as well as the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office allow the officer or a supervisor to terminate the pursuit at any time. Lee said each pursuit is different and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
“It’s a very complicated issue,” he said, adding officers and supervisors consistently are evaluating surroundings and risk factors as they change during a pursuit.
Officers and supervisors are to consider the time of day and day of the week, type of roadway, weather conditions, lighting conditions, traffic and speed among other factors.
They also can use other methods to end a pursuit with approval of a supervisor. Before the collision, officers placed stop sticks at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Ky. 313 to penetrate the tires and slow the vehicle. The driver swerved around the sticks.
Pursuits also are dangerous for the officers involved. Lee said officers are driving at a high rate of speed and trying to prepare for what someone else is going to do.
“Pursuits can be very dangerous,” Land said.
Combs and Meadows acknowledged fault lies with the motorist, who didn’t stop for police.
“They made the choice to do drugs,” Combs said. “They made the choice not to stop.”
Officers wrote in an arrest citation that Welsh admitted he was under the influence of methamphetamine. They also found a small bag of methamphetamine on him.