Police Chase Before Fatal Yonkers Crash Was Justified: Authorities

The top cop in Yonkers said that that the officer  who pursued a stolen van that later crashed into another driver and killed another driver was justified in tailing after the vehicle.

Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said the the officers didn't violate department policy when they followed a stolen 1997 Dodge van with a 16-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl inside that later swerved into oncoming traffic and crashed with another car, killing 46-year-old Sharlene Stinson.

The two teens were critically injured in the crash.

"This is a tragic accident," said Gardner.

At a news conference releasing more details on the crash that killed Stinson on Monday, Gardner called the crash a "tragedy" but said police were right to pursue the vehicle because it was traveling recklessly and they had reason to believe criminal activity was underway.

"The evidence does not suggest any reckless conduct or violation of procedure on the part of the officers involved," said Gardner. 

Gardner said that police had received a call about teens in a stolen van trying to break into parking meters. The officer who was later involved in the chase tried to stop the van, but the vehicle took off in the wrong direction.

He said that the officer followed after the van. At some point the van crossed into the opposite lane and hit Stinson's car. He said that the officer's car was not "in close pursuit" and didn't get to the crash site for another 10 seconds.

"If you look at the totality of the circumstances, you have a stolen van allegedly involved in criminal activity, driving in a reckless manner," said Gardner. "I believe it would fit the guidelines of our pursuit policy." 

The announcement comes after NBC 4 New York obtained exclusive video of the chase, which appeared to show both the van and police car traveling faster than other vehicles.

One witness said it appeared that the cars were going "well over 90 miles an hour" but it's not clear how fast the vehicles were going. Gardner didn't comment on the speed of the vehicle.

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