Examining Santa Fe Police Department’s pursuit policy following deadly I-25 crash

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Newly-released dash camera video shows the wrong-way pursuit that ended with a crash that killed a Santa Fe police officer and retired Las Vegas firefighter in March. The video also shows just how dangerous that pursuit became on I-25 just north of Santa Fe.

Officers involved in the pursuit believed at the time they were chasing a car with a woman who was held hostage at knifepoint. Cars, trucks and semis can be seen swerving out of the way on the interstate, and then the crash happens – killing officer Robert Duran and retired firefighter Frank Lovato.

Paul Szych, retired APD commander, said this was a worst-case scenario.

"It’s literally an officer’s worst nightmare to try to manage all those factors as you’re involved in a rapidly evolving event and you believe that you have somebody that’s been kidnapped… their life is in jeopardy," Szych said.

Santa Fe police pursuit policy leaves a lot up to the officers.

The policy states, "A law enforcement officer may initiate a high-speed pursuit to apprehend a suspect who the officer has reasonable grounds to believe poses a clear and immediate threat of death or serious injury to others."

But it also states, "A law enforcement officer shall not initiate or continue a high-speed pursuit when the immediate danger to the officer and the public created by the high-speed pursuit exceeds the immediate danger to the public if the occupants of the motor vehicle being pursued remain at large."

KOB 4 reached out to Santa Fe police to ask if the policy was followed and if it’s under review. Chief Paul Joye responded in an email:

"The pursuit is being investigated by New Mexico State Police as well as our pursuit committee and Internal Affairs. Until all investigations are completed, I cannot comment regarding compliance with policy and the Safe Pursuit Act."