Utah pursuit ends in fatal collision

By Russ Rizzo
The Salt Lake Tribune

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah  A Taylorsville police officer who allegedly ran a red light and crashed into a Tooele man's car, killing him, was attempting to join a pursuit, Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney Sandi Johnson confirmed Monday.

For months Taylorsville police, citing an ongoing investigation, have declined to say why officer Joseph James Corbett went through an intersection with lights and sirens activated Feb. 7.

"[Corbett] says he was responding to a police chase," Johnson said.

The point will be Utah important in prosecuting Corbett, who was charged with class A misdemeanor negligent homicide, Johnson said.

Utah law exempts officers from certain traffic laws when they follow policies for joining pursuits, Johnson said.

Corbett was speeding through a red light at the intersection of Redwood Road and 4700 South when his police car crashed into a car driven by 27-year-old John Terry Douglas, according to charging documents. Corbett, headed south, was driving 58 mph in a 40 mph zone. Douglas, headed west, was driving 13 mph, according to charging documents.

Johnson said Corbett violated state law and Taylorsville police policy on pursuits. He failed to yield at an intersection, running a red light, and was driving too fast, Johnson said. Prosecutors said Corbett also failed to contact dispatch to say he was joining a pursuit.

Other factors, such as how far away the suspect was at the time and how many officers were involved with the chase, will show Corbett violated pursuit policies, Johnson said.

At the time of the wreck, another Taylorsville officer was chasing a man wanted in Davis County for theft and fleeing police. The man had just fled a South Salt Lake police officer, but that officer called off the chase.

The suspect, Johnathan A. Burgess, 22, was apprehended. He pleaded guilty last month to third-degree felony counts of failure to stop for police and attempted theft by receiving.

Taylorsville is one of three police agencies operating in Salt Lake County that allow officers to chase suspects for lesser crimes than violent felonies. West Valley City police and Utah Highway Patrol have less restrictive policies than other agencies.

Taylorsville Police Chief Del Craig is reviewing his department's pursuit policy and will announce any decision after an internal investigation into Corbett is complete, Sgt. Rosie Rivera, a police spokeswoman, said Monday.

Judge Robert Adkins on Monday agreed to consider allowing Douglas' medical records during a June 21 hearing. Adkins scheduled a three-day trial starting Oct. 16.

If convicted, Corbett faces a maximum of a year in jail.

Copyright 2007 The Salt Lake Tribune

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