Officer dies in motor vehicle crash at an intersection while responding to a shots fired call – South Carolina
On November 7, 2015, a 37 year old municipal police officer was fatally injured when her patrol car was struck by another law enforcement vehicle on a city roadway while responding to a shots fired call.
The officer was en-route to her primary patrol region after escorting a suspect to the city jail when she responded to a shots fired call from municipal dispatch. Multiple university and municipal police officers were working in the same vicinity and simultaneously responded to the shots fired call. As the municipal police officer was traveling westbound, running lights and sirens, she entered an intersection against the traffic control device. At the same time, a university police officer traveling northbound, also running lights and siren, entered the same intersection. The northbound university patrol vehicle crashed into the westbound municipal patrol car. Both officers were taken to a local medical center by ambulance. The municipal police officer died from injuries sustained in the crash. The university police officer received serious injuries.
Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include:
- Two vehicles entered intersection at the same time
- Speed of vehicles
- Multiple agency and patrol car response
- Potential adrenaline overload
- Poor line of sight at the intersection
NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences:
- State, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies should consider establishing, training, and enforcing standard operating procedures (SOPs) that require drivers to come to a complete stop at red traffic lights and stop signs during responses and proceed through intersections only after ensuring it is safe to continue.
- State, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies should consider establishing, training, and enforcing SOPs that limit the speed of a patrol unit during responses.
- State, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies and training academies should consider training and emphasizing Tactical Arousal Control Techniques to enhance officer’s ability to combat negative effects of ‘adrenaline dump’ that can occur when responding to hot calls.
- State, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies should establish and enforce a standard operating policy that requires all officers to wear a seatbelt while operating or riding in a patrol unit.
- State, county, and municipal agencies should consider developing and implementing interagency jurisdictional policies that outline roles and responsibilities in situations or physical locations where a multiple agency response is possible.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. Through an interagency agreement, the National Institute of Justice funded a NIOSH pilot program to investigate line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers resulting from vehicle crashes and being struck by vehicles while responding to roadside emergencies and making traffic stops. These NIOSH investigations are intended to reduce or prevent occupational deaths and are completely separate from the rulemaking, enforcement and inspection activities of any other federal or state agency. NIOSH does not enforce compliance with State or Federal occupational safety and health standards and does not determine fault or assign blame. Participation of law enforcement agencies and individuals in NIOSH investigations is voluntary. Under its program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident who agree to be interviewed and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the death(s). Interviewees are not asked to sign sworn statements and interviews are not recorded. The agency’s reports do not name the deceased officer, the law enforcement agency or those interviewed. The NIOSH report’s summary of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the fatality is intended to provide context to the agency’s recommendations and is not intended to be definitive for purposes of determining any claim or benefit. The NIOSH report is not intended as a legal statement of facts. This summary, as well as the conclusions and recommendations made by NIOSH, should not be used for the purpose of litigation or the adjudication of any claim.