The West Virginia State Police Department's agreement to pay $775,000 to the parents of an innocent victim killed during a police chase should prompt all police agencies in the Tri-state area to re-examine their pursuit policies. The time when citizens would give police the benefit of the doubt on such matters is long gone.
The lawsuit that led to the settlement was filed by John and Cynthia Smailes, whose 21-year-old daughter Amanda was killed Nov. 24, 1996, when a car being pursued by police collided with her 1989 Ford Escort, sending the compact car hurtling off the road and into a utility pole.
Much is known about the incident because it was videotaped under an arrangement with a TV show called "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol." When the tape was played in court, it included dialogue in which an officer urged the suspect he was pursuing at speeds of up to 100 mph to "die mother...."