Exclusive: Highway patrol chief discusses pursuit policy after criticism in trial involving trooper’s death

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CLEVELAND COUNTY, Okla. – A jury has convicted D’Angelo Burgess of first-degree murder Monday afternoon for the death of Lt. Heath Meyer.

Meyer died from his injuries sustained in a crash in July 2017 when Burgess led the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on a chase.

Throughout the trial, the OHP pursuit policy was put under the microscope by the defense.

A new committee is meeting each month to review  the policy and continue looking for ways to improve it.

The policy is kept secret because it’s protected statutorily.

Burgess was emotional Monday afternoon after the jury decided he should sit in prison for decades. He’s convicted of felony murder after he eluded troopers in July 2017, setting into a motion a devastating series of events.

“Heath never knew that would be his last time at headquarters, and so that really does strike home I think with everybody in there. You never know, when you step in that car, what’s going to happen the next minute,” said OHP Chief Michael Harrell.

Meyer can be seen briefly on dash cam video trying to retrieve his stop sticks before a fellow trooper hits him.

On the witness stand, an OHP captain said the crash just could not be avoided.

There was not enough time.

We now know the trooper who hit Meyer was going 89 miles per hour three seconds before the collision.

“These are split-second decisions. You saw, at the end, it happened in about 1.3 seconds, and I think Captain Hampton said was perception/reaction time is 1.46 seconds so less time than that they had to think about what was going on,” Harrell said.

The defense expert testified, in his opinion, the chase should have been terminated by national standards and the OHP policy.

The crash and others have OHP closely evaluating their pursuit policy.

“Over the last six-eight months, I’ve put together a policy committee, and what they look at is keeping the public safe. It’s always that balancing act. I know they talked about it several times during the trial. It really is a balancing act of is it worth it?” Harrell said.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued the tragedy was all on the shoulders of Burgess, who decided on that night to run from police.

“If someone dies as the result of an act or event in the commission of him running from the police, then he’s guilty of first-degree murder. Policy doesn’t come into play,” said District Attorney Greg Mashburn.

The new committee is meeting once a month right now.

As for Burgess, he will not be eligible to be considered for parole until he is 66 years old.

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