Police in Sacramento said an officer was traveling at an unsafe speed when he lost control of his SUV, striking a teenager who was fleeing on foot and sending him tumbling across part of the vehicle's hood. The incident took place last month and began when the 16-year-old was stopped for riding a bicycle at night without a light.
"Clearly, this collision could have been tragic," Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement on Friday as police audio and video were released. "I am grateful the young man was not more seriously injured and that no one else was injured."
Police said that at around 10 p.m. on July 22 officers stopped a male subject for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk in the dark without lights, which is against the law. The officers asked if he had any warrants and said that the person tried to flee on the bike before running off on foot.
The teen, identified by NBC affiliate KCRA of Sacramento only as Daniel, was then struck by another officer assisting the chase in a marked police vehicle with lights and sirens on.
Police video shows the vehicle making a turn towards the teen as he runs on a sidewalk, and striking him. The impact sends the teen onto and off the side of the hood.
"The investigation has determined that the speed is the primary reason the incident occurred," police Det. James Allen said in a video released by police Friday. "The officer was traveling at an unsafe speed for the attempted turn. This unsafe speed resulted in a loss of control."
Allen said the investigation has shown the collision was unintended. Police said the officer, who has not been named by the department, went into an “understeer,” where a car loses traction in the front wheels and goes straighter than intended.
Video released by the department says that the speed of the police vehicle at the time of the accident is still under investigation, but the in-car camera suggests it was traveling at 27 mph. The speed limit in the residential area is 25 mph.
A police spokesperson said in an email Saturday that the officer involved is not being named, and is not on leave. "This still remains on ongoing investigation," the spokesperson said.
Police, who did not identify the person struck, said the person hit by the vehicle was treated for non-life threatening injuries at a hospital and was released a few hours later, and was cited for resisting arrest.
Daniel in an interview with KCRA the day after the incident said that he ran from police out of fear. "It was crazy. I flew at least 10, 15 feet." The video shows the young man with a brace on an ankle and with scrapes and bruises.
His mother, who was not named by the station, questioned the police response. "He got smacked by a car. That's a deadly weapon right there," she said.
"The circumstances that led to the collision are not consistent with our training or expectations and this was an unacceptable outcome," police said in Friday’s statement.
"Our training is designed to prevent this sort of thing from happening. We are going to make sure our training — and the officer's adherence to that training — is as solid as it can be," Hahn, the police chief, said in the statement. He added that departmental training is designed to prevent accidents like this and will be emphasized.
Police said they have asked a "multidisciplinary accident investigation team” of the California Highway Patrol to review the police investigation into the incident to ensure that it is comprehensive and thorough.