A Houston police vehicle struck and killed a bystander on a sidewalk after it joined a vehicle pursuit of car theft suspects over the weekend, officials said.
Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite said Saturday at a news conference that the pedestrian's death earlier in the day was an "absolute tragedy."
He offered prayers to the victim’s family, as well as to the two officers who were involved in the crash, who he said were “distraught.”
The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences identified the dead man Monday as Michael Jackson. His primary cause of death was “multiple blunt force injuries.” His manner of death was listed as a motor vehicle accident. A spokeswoman for the office said he was 62 years old.
The officers, whose names have not been released, are about 25 years old and have been on the force less than two years, Satterwhite said. They have been placed on administrative leave, he said.
After it stuck the man, the patrol vehicle hit a dumpster in a parking lot, police said.
The man’s death is under investigation by the police department’s internal affairs division and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, police said.
Assistant District Attorney Sean Teare told reporters, “This is a tragic night."
"The officers were responding to a violent felony,” Teare said. “That is something we are going to take into account. ... We are not going to treat this case any different because it involves officers. It involves a human being who lost his life. So we’re going to be looking at it through that lens.”
Teare said that once investigations are complete, the case will be presented to a county grand jury to determine whether any charges are merited.
Satterwhite said police were pursuing five people Saturday, three of whom were arrested and charged with aggravated robbery.
Satterwhite said two of the suspects, all of whom were believed to be minors, eluded officers.
The incident began at 4:49 p.m., when a woman called police and said she had been robbed at gunpoint by several people who stole her Ford pickup truck and her purse, Satterwhite said.
When officers spotted the truck, it did not stop, and a pursuit began at about 5:39 p.m., Satterwhite said. One of the responding patrol vehicles lost control and went onto the sidewalk, striking the pedestrian, he said.
The officers involved in the crash immediately told dispatchers that they had been in an accident and called for an ambulance. Within a minute, cardiopulmonary resuscitation was begun on the man who was struck, Satterwhite said.
He was pronounced dead at 5:51 p.m., Satterwhite said.
Satterwhite said officers involved in the pursuit and the crash had activated their lights and sirens.
“Due caution is always the requirement in how we drive, how we conduct our business on the streets," Satterwhite said when he was asked about department protocol for vehicle pursuits. "But bear in mind, they were aggravated robbery suspects.”