Perils of police at high speeds spur calls for more reform

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FILE - This June 11, 2019 file photo of a poster showing Verona Gunn is displayed during a press conference in Chicago.. Verona Gunn was an 84-year-old woman killed last May when two Chicago Police vehicles slammed into a car she was riding in. Crashes involving Chicago police vehicles that killed Gunn and a young mother last week, highlight the dangers of police speeding to crime scenes or during car chases. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford File)

CHICAGO – A tragic chain of events that led to the death of a retired elementary teacher in Chicago started when a police officer confronted a man in a West Side alley. After issuing a call for help, the officer could be heard over the police radio screaming, “Drop the gun!”

Three minutes later and just two blocks away, two police vehicles speeding to the officer's aid collided at an intersection, one catapulting the other onto a sedan taking 84-year-old Verona Gunn home after a family cookout. She died hours later on an operating table.

That crash last year and another this month that killed a young Chicago mother highlight a police reform issue that hasn't received as much attention as the use of excessive force: The hundreds of deadly crashes involving speeding police that occur nationwide each year.

Audio obtained exclusively by The Associated Press of police radio transmissions before Gunn was fatally injured reveals that a dispatcher told responding officers over and over to reduce their speed because the suspect had been disarmed.

“Slow down,” she says firmly. She repeats that order at least five more times over two minutes.

Police are more likely to speed through minority neighborhoods, said Gunn’s son, Dwight Gunn, who is a pastor. He said he sees police racing past his church all day in the predominately black Austin neighborhood, where his mother raised her three kids and where the accident took her life.

The problem, he said, should be seen in the context of the push for far-reaching police reforms in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

He and other advocates want stricter department policies limiting scenarios in which police can speed.