Missouri state lawmakers heard testimony Monday on a bill that would make all police chases felonies.
Right now a majority end up being classified as misdemeanors and usually don’t lead to additional penalties on top of the charges the suspect is running from.
Quasheena Cadenhead was charged Monday in Cass County for leading deputies on a chase at speeds that topped 100 mph while going the wrong way down Interstate 49. A deputy who brought the chase to an end as she exited on an entrance ramp was injured.
Sheriff Jeff Weber said if it weren’t for the deputy’s injuries, Cadenhead may have only faced a misdemeanor in the wild chase.
In 1995, Cass County Dep. Jeff Mayse was chasing a suspect on a rural Cass County road when he slammed into a tree.
“I just remember the next days just feeling numb, knowing my life was never going to be the same,” his daughter Brandy Whitten said.
Whitten was 12 when Mayse was killed, her little sister was born 4 weeks later, but never got to meet the man who wore badge 619.
A Missouri legislator introduced House Bill 619 last year to strengthen penalties for running from the law, but it never picked up traction.
On Monday, one day after one of his deputies was injured in a high-speed pursuit, Weber testified in favor of this year’s version, House Bill 1620.
“It’s been our experience that individuals who run once, run twice, three, four times. They do it all the time, and we’ve trained them to do that,” he said.
Weber wants the line in Missouri statue that says it’s a misdemeanor “unless the person fleeing creates a substantial risk of serious injury or death” eliminated and replaced with a Class E felony.
“We are just gambling. We are letting them out on a signature bond to continue to do these things until someone finally gets hurt,” Weber said.
Or in the case of Jeff Mayse, killed in the line of duty. His daughter said it should be simple.
“There’s no reason to injure anyone else or yourselves, injure someone else that’s in the path or put the deputies’ lives on the line. They are doing their job, just pull over,” Whitten said.
A deputy injured in a chase in September only returned to duty Friday. There’s no telling when the deputy who stopped Sunday’s wrong-way, speeding suspect will be back to work.
Kansas law is similar to Missouri’s right now, though it makes a third arrest for fleeing and eluding an automatic felony.
By Dave D’Marko | Fox 4 KC