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Nov 29, 2023

Deadly police chase and crash in Chesapeake marks at least 8 ending in crashes in 2023; 5 where another driver is hit

Michael Goodove

It’s the second case in which the driver of the suspected vehicle died, the first case happening in January.

Article by: Alex Littlehales | Link to full article

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A deadly police chase and crash marks at least the eighth time in 2023 when a police pursuit involving the Chesapeake Police Department ended in a car crash.

According to CPD, around 1:16 p.m. last Friday, an officer attempted to stop a sedan for both failing to maintain their lane of travel and a registration violation on South Military Highway. 

The driver of the car did not stop, and when the cars reached the intersection of South Military Highway and George Washington Highway North, the sedan crashed into an uninvolved SUV, police said. 

The driver of the sedan died at the scene, later identified as 23-year-old Derron Williams Jr. of Norfolk. The driver of the uninvolved SUV was hospitalized, but she is expected to survive. 

According to what’s been publicly reported through the Chesapeake Police Department, this marks at least eight police pursuits involving the department in which a pursuit led to a crash. It’s the second case in which the driver of the suspected vehicle died, the first case happening in January. 

Of those eight crashes, five of them involve another civilian driver being struck as well. In total across the eight police pursuit crashes, more than a dozen cars have been damaged. 

“Once it turns into a chase, there is a tremendous risk to the community,” Mike Goodove said, attorney at Swartz, Taliaferro, Swartz, & Goodove.

Goodove is in the midst of a civil lawsuit related to the topic of police pursuits in Chesapeake. In 2021, a police pursuit then caused a suspected driver to crash into another civilian driver, which initiated a lawsuit against four Chesapeake officers as well as the driver in Norfolk Circuit Court.

Goodove said there is no trial date yet for the litigation, but the latest incident speaks to the greater conversations about the risks versus the reward of a police pursuit. 

“That’s what occurs in these chases. You have a dangerous situation that gets escalated by the actions of a law enforcement officer.”

This year, Chesapeake Police Chief Mark Solesky updated the Department’s pursuit policy. He issued new language that explicitly details the considerations and risks of a police pursuit. 

“If our number one priority is public safety, then in some situations the most professional and reasonable decision will be to terminate a pursuit in the interest of public safety,” reads the policy introduction.

Another line written under the policy’s procedures is:

“A pursuit shall be terminated if the pursuing officer is being required to drive at speeds considered to be excessive for the environment, population density, type of roadway (city streets vs. inter-state highways) roadway conditions, or in a manner which exceeds the performance capabilities of the police vehicle or the capabilities of the police vehicle operator.”

Chief Solesky did not have time Monday to answer questions about this story, per a CPD spokesperson.

Goodove praised the added language, but questions whether they are being properly implemented by the department. 

“I think the additions are worth while but are they being follow? The policy is synonymous with the law. Officers have a right to a right to pursue, they do. But once that endangers other members of the community, they have to break the pursuit off.”

At least four of the crashes following a police pursuit involved a stolen vehicle.