THOMASVILLE, Ala. (WALA) – More questions than answers remain from a police chase that preceded a traffic crash that claimed the lives of three people Friday.
As state law enforcement officials continued their investigation Tuesday, FOX10 News made formal requests for video footage of the incident.
Police chased Christopher Ryan Pritchett, who at some point crossed over a median on U.S. Highway 43, colliding with an oncoming car. The crash killed Pritchett and two women in the other vehicle – 23-year-old Megan Brunson and her mother, 52-year-old Wanda Brunson. Megan Brunson’s sister and daughter suffered critical injuries.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, which continued its investigation Tuesday, said it has nothing to add to its original news release. FOX10 News filed two public records requests to both the Thomasville Police Department and the city, asking for:
- Copies of dashboard video during the chase and police body camera footage.
- A copy of the department’s policy governing dash- and bodycam footage.
- A copy of the department’s policy on police pursuits.
Thomasville officials said city lawyers would review the requests.
Police Chief Mitchell Stuckey told FOX10 News that he is eager to provide more information but cannot until ALEA finishes its investigation.
“When someone else is investigating, you don’t want to circumvent them and cut their knees out from under them,” he said.
Stuckey told FOX10 News that dashboard cameras start recording whenever an officer turns on his patrol car’s blue lights. As for the body cam footage, he added, there likely is no video available because none of the officers had direct contact with Pritchett.
Stuckey said he did not know how long the ALEA probe may take.
“We’ve never been involved in something like this,” he said.
Court records indicate that police charged Pritchett with breaking into a 2003 Honda Odyssey with the intent to commit theft on Monday of last week. He received a $7,500 bond three days before the chase.
Police chases have come under scrutiny in recent years, with some agencies limiting when officers are authorized to chase a suspect who refuses to comply.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show there were 1,715 fatal accidents involving police pursuits from 2014 through 2018. From 2016 through 2018, 37 of those crashes – including one in the Mobile area – occurred in Alabama.
Friday’s crash was at least the fourth involving police chases in southwest Alabama since the beginning of 2019. The others were:
- A wrong-way accident in April 2019 that occurred when the driver of a 2019 Chevrolet Malibu made a U-turn to elude law enforcement officers in Intestate 10 and plowed into an oncoming 2018 Ford Escape. Two people in that vehicle died, along with all three occupants of the Malibu.
- A crash in January at the intersection of Baldwin County 24 and Baldwin County 55 after a chase by Summerdale police. Pearly Mason died after the vehicle she was driving collided with the car pursued by police.
- A January crash in Alabama’s Escambia County at Ross Road and Alabama 21. Authorities said Warren Stallworth was driving at speeds reaching 100 mph when sheriff’s deputies started pursuing him.
Stuckey said he could not immediately release the policy on chases but said the department is “forward looking” in its approach.
“We have one,” he said. We have one that we train hard on, I’ll tell you that.”