By Alaa Elassar and Andy Rose, CNN
A Houston police cruiser struck and killed a pedestrian during a robbery pursuit Saturday afternoon, authorities said.
The two Houston police officers who were involved in the incident are said to be “distraught” after striking a 45-50 year-old man who has not yet been identified, Houston Police Department (HPD) executive assistant chief Larry Satterwhite said in a news conference Saturday.
“This is a tragic night and a man lost his life,” Satterwhite said. “Our prayers are going out to our victim and his family. It is an absolute tragedy.”
Officers received a call around 5 p.m. from a woman who said she was robbed at gunpoint and that the thieves stole her black Ford truck and her purse, according to Satterwhite.
When police found the stolen vehicle, the suspects drove off and a pursuit began, the executive assistant chief said. When another HPD vehicle came to assist, that cruiser went out of control and ended up on a sidewalk, killing the pedestrian, he explained.
“They were running lights and sirens trying to catch up and help our officers in the pursuit and apprehension of the suspects that were involved in the aggravated robbery,” Satterwhite said. “Tragically, as they were coming westbound on Reed Road, coming up to the intersection, somehow they lost control of their vehicle.”
The officers administered CPR on the scene but the victim was pronounced dead, Satterwhite said.
The officers in the vehicle that hit the pedestrian are on routine administrative leave while an investigation is underway to determine what caused them to lose control of the cruiser, according to Satterwhite.
Both officers are around 25 years old and have been on the Houston force for less than two years, he continued.
Of the five suspects being pursued in the aggravated robbery and stolen vehicle case, three of them — all juveniles — were caught and charged with aggravated robbery, Satterwhite said. Two others escaped.
Another officer received minor injuries when he was struck by the moving stolen vehicle as it was abandoned by the suspects, according to Satterwhite.
Sean Teare, chief of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Vehicular Crimes Division, said during the news conference that the incident will not be treated any differently because it involves officers.
“It involves a human being who lost his life, so we’re going to look at it from that lens,” Teare said, adding that authorities are examining multiple pieces of evidence including surveillance footage and information on the speed of the police cruiser at different points in the chase.
While there will be a “very lengthy investigation” before the case is taken to a grand jury, Teare clarified that they will be taking into account the officers’ efforts to help in capturing the suspects of the aggravated robbery.
“The officers were responding to a violent felony,” Teare said. “This is not a normal crash. A normal crash in situations like this would probably constitute different charges than we’re even going to think about in this case.”
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