OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – With Monday’s police chase resulting in the death of a passenger, the total deaths from Oklahoma Highway Patrol pursuits now reaches 19, dating back to 2016.
The Tulsa World reported that statistic, adding that five deaths were uninvolved motorists, three were passengers in fleeing vehicles, and one was an OHP lieutenant.
Ethan Mestes was the passenger that died because of Monday’s pursuit. He was 22 years old.
One other passenger, Mercedes Martinez, was critically injured.
The driver was Alex Carpenter, and he was arrested on a first degree murder charge.
OHP said the vehicle was allegedly stolen.
“The trooper knew that he needed to end that pursuit as quickly as possible,” said Eric Foster, a trooper with OHP.
From the 19 deaths reported by The Tulsa World, all but one of the chases began with stolen property or traffic violations – nonviolent offenses.
Walker Milligan is a mental health professional. He leads a community group that meets once a month to talk policy, including changes to policing to help save lives.
“The police create a dangerous situation and use that danger to justify harm,” said Milligan.
He argued there should be safer ways to track down drivers, citing drone technology, the use of helicopters, and ID tracking.
“No property is worth a human life,” said Milligan.
KFOR spoke to Trooper Eric Foster on Tuesday about the crash and OHP’s pursuit policy. He defended and said the action is intended to keep innocent people safe.
“He [trooper from Monday] performed a tactical vehicle intervention which stopped that pursuit before it hit a family,” said Foster.
OHP does not have restrictions for their troopers when it comes to speed limits.
In July, Oklahoma City Police adjusted their pursuit policy. Officers now have to end a pursuit if the chase is 15mph over the speed limit of a city street, and 25mph over the speed limit of interstates, divided highways or turnpikes.
Foster said regardless of the controversy, troopers will continue to use the techniques they are taught to end pursuits.
“It is imperative upon the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, especially if you’re trained to do so, to stop it immediately,” said Foster.