|Tragedy in Fresno-3 die in pursuit
|Flags are lowered to half mast in
California, on May 29, 2003, Fresno County Sheriff's investigator Joshua Lancaster pulled
away from a stop sign into the path of a pursuit being conducted by Sanger, California
police, with the assistance of a CHP helicopter unit. Though it is hardly mentioned, dead
also is 17 year-old Lorena Rodriguez and her unborn child, a passenger in the fleeing car
that impacted Lancaster's unmarked vehicle at 90 miles per hour. Just another pursuit
tragedy, to be dismissed, and swept under the carpet, by a solemn faced police spokesmen
with the phrase "A tragic loss of life-if only the suspects had stopped when
ordered..."- I think not, this one is different-one of the innocent victims was a
police officer, from a different agency, totally unaware of what was going on. Those of us
who have lost innocent family members to police pursuits can understand the horrible pain
of Joshua Lancaster's wife and family, as well as the Rodriguez family, and they are in
our prayers. It is evident that many members of the law enforcement community have taken
this death on a family level, and they are asking questions in a effort
to change things so that this tragic event could not happen again. By all accounts Joshua
Lancaster was a fine young man, a vital part of his family and community, but these events
did not make Joshua Lancaster a hero. Joshua Lancaster was a regular "Joe" at
the tragic end of a string of senseless events. His death was unnecessary and easily
prevented. We could only wish that the vigor with which the policy and procedure
concerning police pursuit is being examined by the departments involved in this case was
the same for a "civilian" death. It is trite to say "If the suspect would
have stopped Joshua Lancaster would be alive today." In this case law enforcement
professionals around the county are also asking:
"Why wasn't the Fresno Sheriff warned of the pursuit when it entered their jurisdiction?"
"Why was the long, 90 mph pursuit continued when a CHP helicopter was overhead?'
"Was the life of Joshua Lancaster worth a stolen car?"
"What could have Sanger, CHP and Fresno done different to prevent these deaths."
The real tragedy of this case is that it took the death of Joshua Lancaster to get police officers to ask the questions that many of us have asked, and continue to ask. Questions that go largely unanswered or are met with hostility by much of the law enforcement community. Rest in peace Joshua Clyde Lancaster, our prayers are with you and your family.
James Phillips 6/7/03
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