x
Breaking News
More () »

Local case puts spotlight on 'unnecessary' police pursuits

e hear about police chases often, but did you realize more than 11,000 people have died from them, many of whom are innocent bystanders? And some say police pursuits very often aren't even necessary.
Police lights

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- We hear about police chases often, but did you realize more than 11,000 people have died from them, many of whom are innocent bystanders? And some say police pursuits very often aren't even necessary.

NBC Charlotte reporter Michelle Boudin took a look at the numbers and a close look at a deadly chase in our area that years later still has the victims' families looking for answers.

Ellen Tucker sees the same thing in every old photo of her sister Donna.

"She had a great big smile that showed all her teeth and a big booming laugh," Tucker recalled.

Donna Dietz had moved back to Belmont to care for the sisters ailing parents, who'd never left the house where the girls were born and raised.

Tucker remembers, "When my sister died, my parents kind of collapsed."

Dietz and a close family friend, Belmont's former mayor, Kevin Loftin, were killed in February 2012 when Lester Norman, Jr., fleeing from police, slammed into them going 80 miles an hour.

It started when police say Norman blew through a Belmont police checkpoint set up at the entrance ramp to 85.

He was driving without a license, was on probation and didn't want to go back to prison.

Police say they started chasing Norman because they claim he did more than just run from the checkpoint.

We talked to then-Belmont Police Chief Charlie Frankin back in 2013 when he told us, "He intended to hit the officer, that's the way I feel and that's the way the officers on the scene felt."

But that's not clear on the dascham video, and Ellen Tucker doesn't think that's how it happened at all.

She had a re-enactment done-- her version of events-- because she says police had no reason to chase, that Norman never tried to run over an officer. Her family even hired a private investigator and tried suing the department.

"We found there were 11 officers involved in misconduct; some occurred after the chase when they wrote false reports and gave a false story to the media about the fleeing driver having aimed his car at the policeman."

"You think this was part of a cover up?"

"Oh absolutely it was a cover up, there's no question about that."

Belmont Police updated their chase policy in March 2013 to say they'll only chase for a crime that poses a significant risk of serious bodily injury or death.

"Do you think Belmont has done enough?"

"I do not."

The interim chief says since the deaths of Donna Dietz and Kevin Loftin, officers have been more thoughtful about whether to chase.

"Do you feel like the mindset of the department has changed because of what happened three years ago?"

"I feel like the mindset has changed."

But it's not enough for Donna's family.

She is continuing to fight for change, not only in Belmont, but across the country, pushing to get officers better trained for when they do decide to chase.

"You're raising the possibility you will injure or kill people who have no involvement whatsoever."

"Which is what happened here?"

"Yes."

Tucker had to drop her lawsuit, but says her family really only pursued it to try to get the Belmont Police Department to change their chase policy.

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out