By Craig Kelly
The Lima News
LIMA, Ohio — The Lima Police Department released dashcam video Wednesday from a pursuit early Friday morning that led to the death of a 21-year-old Lima man.
Lima Police Department Major Chip Protsman released the video today at the request of The Lima News. Police officials were hesitant to release the footage earlier in the week, saying that it fell under an exception to the state's open records law concerning active investigations. However, the department decided otherwise after consulting prosecutors.
"It's still an ongoing investigation," Protsman said. "However, after discussing it with the county prosecutor and our law director, they felt that this would not influence the case either way. That's why we decided to release it."
The 85-second long video shows Officer Aaron Montgomery, a six-year veteran of the department, try to pull over a van full of people. The footage begins with the police cruiser pulled up behind the van at the intersection of Harrison Avenue and East Kibby Street. Both vehicles then turned west off Harrison onto Kibby when Montgomery radioed in his suspicions of drug use in the van.
"I think there's a strong odor of 260 coming from this van," Montgomery reported. "I'm trying to determine."
Montgomery then attempted to pull the van over in the vicinity of McPheron Avenue when the van's driver attempted to get away.
"Jonesy, they're taking off on me," Montgomery said. "Station, we're westbound on Kibby."
Both the van and the cruiser evaded a vehicle at the intersection of East Kibby and South Pine streets. The van then crossed the railroad tracks on East Kibby Street, and as Montgomery approached the tracks, he realized what happened.
"Approaching Central at a high rate of speed, he just wrecked — 20, he's a 20, Station." Montgomery said. "Central and Kibby. Get me some units out here."
The footage then shows the impacted vehicle, in which Devontae Williams was a passenger, off the right side of the street with the van stopped on the left side of the street, hazard lights flashing. Debris from the crash can be seen on the roadway. The video ends with three of the van's occupants getting out of the vehicle and laying down on the ground. Williams died later at St. Rita's Medical Center.
Earlier this week, Protsman said the Police Department's review of the 13-second incident showed no wrongdoing by Montgomery.
"The way we look at it is we determine the safety of the public if the pursuit continues weighed against the safety of the public if the person gets away," he said.
In this case, Protsman felt that Montgomery was justified in going after the van given the conditions.
"We look at all factors, such as the volume of traffic and the time of day or night," he said. "In this case, it was almost 1 in the morning and as you can see in the video, traffic was light at that time."
Given that the chase itself happened so quickly, Montgomery did not have a chance to even make a call on whether he should continue the chase or not, according to Protsman.
"It only lasted 13 seconds," he said. "The officer did pursue for a short time and, in my opinion, before he could even start to make a whole lot of judgment calls, the crash had already occurred."
Protsman said the driver of the van has been released from the hospital, but no charges had yet been filed and his name was still not being released.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
"He will be charged," he said. "We're just not certain on exactly when that will be."
Copyright 2014 The Lima News