Wash. troopers: Pursuit law kept LE from stopping speeding driver who later killed 2 kids in crash
"This is tragic. We haven't had multiple children killed in a very long time. It's bad," one trooper said
By Donald W. Meyers
SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — A Washington State Patrol trooper first spotted a man accused of killing two children in a drunken driving crash speeding an hour before.
But the trooper couldn't stop Keith A. Goings because of a state law that restricts police pursuits, a State Patrol spokesman said.
"Under current legislative law, (speeding) does not give us enough probable cause to start a pursuit," Trooper Chris Thorson said Wednesday.
Goings, 20, of Springfield, Mo., was first spotted driving east on Interstate 90 at 111 mph a mile east of the Thorp exit after 6:35 p.m., Thorson said.
Because Goings was only speeding, troopers could not engage in a pursuit, Thorson said.
Roughly an hour later, Goings apparently got back on Interstate 82 near Sunnyside heading east in the westbound lane, Thorson said, and his 2007 Ford Mustang collided with a 2012 Nissan Altima that was heading east, according to a State Patrol news release. Two children in the Altima, ages 6 and 8, were killed.
In 2021, as part of a police reform package drafted in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, the Legislature passed House Bill 1054, requiring that police have probable cause that someone committed certain crimes before pursuing them.
The bill's proponents argued in 2021 that it improves public safety by reducing the number of high-speed chases that endanger suspects, officers and bystanders. Law enforcement officials have disagreed, saying more people are driving off from police.
Selah police Chief Dan Christman said the 2021 law requires police to know that someone is more likely than not a suspect in a violent crime or is driving while intoxicated before beginning a pursuit.
Christman and Thorson said that going 111 mph on the interstate alone isn't probable cause to pull someone over for a possible drunken driving charge.
"It seems ridiculous," Christman said.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would restore the pursuit rules back to "reasonable suspicion," a standard that Thorson said would have allowed a trooper to pursue and stop Goings.
Crash kills 2
The driver of the Nissan, 23-year-old Maurilio D. Trejo of Grandview, a 5-year-old girl who was riding in the car and Goings were first taken to MultiCare Yakima Memorial Hospital before they were transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where their condition was not immediately known, Thorson said.
A 6-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl who were in the Nissan were pronounced dead at the scene, the WSP release said.
"This is tragic. We haven't had multiple children killed in a very long time," Thorson said. "It's bad."
The Nissan's occupants were all related, Thorson said.
A State Patrol drug recognition expert determined that Goings was under the influence of intoxicants while he was at Memorial and, after getting a search warrant, troopers obtained a blood sample from Goings at Harborview, Thorson said.
The Nissan's occupants were all wearing seatbelts, but it is not known if Goings was a State Patrol news release said. Intoxicants were a factor in the crash, the release said.
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