NBC12 questions police chief about deadly motorcycle crash

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Police are still not releasing many details about the motorcycle crash that killed a Richmond man over the weekend. Witnesses told NBC12 the accident was the result of a police chase. We brought that information to Chief Bryan Norwood but he wouldn't get into specifics about the accident that killed 27-year old Thomas Johnson.  Norwood said he isn't able to say yet, if the officers involved followed department rules.

When asked to describe what happened Saturday morning, Chief Norwood said, "Well obviously we're investigating a fatal motorcycle accident.  Beyond that we are in the preliminary start of the investigation and it would be irresponsible of me to disclose too much at this time."

Eyewitnesses told us Thomas Johnson was showboating on the motorcycle outside a club in Shockoe Bottom when an officer told him to stop.

According to those witnesses, Johnson continued to pop wheelies and the officer switched on his cruiser lights. That's when Johnson took off. Witnesses who live near the accident scene said officers arrived seconds after the crash.

Chief Norwood wouldn't confirm those accounts. He did, however, briefly explain the department's pursuit policy.

"Officers have to have the ability to articulate a reason why we're in a pursuit and then if we are in a pursuit to make sure that it's safe," he said. "And if we're going into a highly populated area, decisions need to be made to make sure it is as safe as possible."

Police pursuits have been under the microscope since the death of Richmond Pastor Anthony Taylor in March. He was hit and killed by a driver, who had run from a Henrico Police checkpoint.

Richmonders told us they're concerned police are more focused on making the arrest, than the potentially dangerous consequences of a chase.

"A police officer's responsibility is to enforce the law but the caveat to that is we have to do so safely," Norwood responded. "So all those judgment calls will be made but at the end of the day we're trying to make sure that our policy is the best and that our officers are well trained."

When we asked if Norwood believes his officers are doing that, his only response was, "Yes, I do."

Chief Norwood said he hopes to have more information within the next two weeks about the circumstances surrounding this weekend's deadly motorcycle crash.

Meantime Delegate Delores McQuinn is proposing legislation for next year's general assembly session that would develop guidelines for police to follow when pursuing suspects.

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