11/05/2007

Ind. man killed after stepping in front of squad

By Amy Bartner
The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Police say they don't know why a pedestrian, who was killed Saturday after trying to cross a four-lane road, stepped in front of a patrol car with its emergency lights and siren operating.

Indianapolis metropolitan police Patrolman Michael Kavanaugh, a five-year veteran, had a green light on Moller Road at the intersection with 34th Street on the Westside when the patrol car struck the man shortly before 2 a.m., said police Sgt. Matthew Mount.

Kavanaugh was en route to assist another officer in a high-speed chase of a suspected drunken driver, Mount said.

The officer veered sharply to the left in an attempt to avoid hitting the man, who was walking east across Moller, about 20 yards from the intersection, police said. The patrol car spun 180 degrees and slid about 80 yards on Moller before coming to a stop, according to police.

Kavanaugh's speed isn't known, but it was "consistent with emergency response and driving," Mount said.

"Frankly, somebody jumping out in front of a police vehicle -- with lights and sirens activated, operating within the parameters of what he's supposed to be doing -- is something you can't control," Mount said.

Police said they believe they have determined the pedestrian's identity, but his name won't be released until confirmation from the Marion County coroner's office and notification of the man's relatives, Mount said.

Kavanaugh was on his way to help K-9 Officer Mitchell Waters, who saw a Toyota Camry, westbound on West 38th Street, run a red light at Georgetown Road.

When the driver -- identified as Noel Perea-Galan, 23 -- didn't pull over, Waters radioed for assistance and began a pursuit, police said. Kavanaugh was in the 3300 block of Moller and began driving north to 38th Street.

Just moments after Kavanaugh's car struck the pedestrian, Perea-Galan's auto crashed into the center median at 38th Street and Bennett Drive, police said.

After he was handcuffed, Perea-Galan tried to run away, but Waters caught him, police said. Perea-Galan was preliminarily charged with fleeing police, resisting arrest, driving under the influence and fleeing police causing death. His blood-alcohol content was not available Saturday.

Perea-Galan has a previous driving-under-the-influence conviction, police said.

"All of those events happened within one minute, so this was a tragic situation here," Mount said. "Like any loss of life, it is a tragic situation that could've been avoided if the initial individual who was drunk driving could've pulled over or if this other individual was obeying laws of traffic."

Waters will continue normal work duties, Mount said. Kavanaugh, who already was scheduled for three days off, will work in an administrative position to assist during the investigation before returning to his normal duties.

Police Chief Michael Spears declined comment because of the investigation but offered his condolences to those involved.

"I am extremely concerned about the tragic accident which occurred this morning which resulted in the death of the pedestrian near 34th and Moller," Spears said in a statement. "We are sorrowful for his death, and our thoughts and prayers are for his family and friends at this time, as well as for Officer Kavanaugh and what he must be going through."

For more than a decade, Indianapolis police chases have been a topic of debate.

In January 2006, an innocent driver was injured in a police chase on 38th Street, and the chase was brought under review by the department.

In July, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against an Indianapolis police officer who was led on a 110-mph chase in 2005, during which two people died.

The parents of Kelly L. Baker, who was a passenger in the car chased by police, filed the lawsuit against pursuer Cpl. Ronald Shelnutt. Baker, 19, and the car's driver, Leonard D. Moss Jr., 22, were killed when the car crashed into a utility pole.

In 2005, The Indianapolis Star conducted an analysis of 947 police chases from 2003 to 2004. About 75 percent of those pursuits began with traffic violations or "suspicious" vehicles.

Top speeds in those chases included 100 mph on city streets and more than 170 mph on interstates. From 1993 to 2003, 86 people, 25 of them bystanders, died during police chases.

Copyright 2007 The Indianapolis Star

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