We've all seen police chases on television. They're fast, and lots of folks would tell you they're fun to watch. But the fun ends when you meet a family that's been affected by a police chase in the worst of ways.
The Priano family of Chico, California, lost their only daughter, a 15-year-old girl they called "the sparkplug of the family," during a police chase four years ago. I spent time with them recently at their home to see how that moment changed their lives.
Here's the background: 15-year-old Kristia Priano was on the way to a basketball game at her school. She was in the family van with her parents and her brother.
Another 15-year-old girl had just stolen her mother's car across town and was out for a joyride. Police pursued her in a slow-speed chase. But for some reason, the girl suddenly floored it and smashed into the Priano's van at an intersection.
Here's what Kristie's mom, Candy Priano, told me she remembers about the moment right after the accident: "She always was so talkative. I mean, if she had been alright, I know she would have said something. So, in my heart of hearts I knew that something was really bad."
Kristie went into a coma and died one week later. And that other girl, the driver on the joyride, well, she left the accident scene uninjured.
Here's the question the Priano's have been asking for 4 years: If the suspect in this case was not a murderer, not even a dangerous felon, why were police chasing her? She was a high school student who took the family car out for a joyride. Does that warrant a police chase?
"Yes, because it fits the policy, because it's more than just a vehicle infraction," says Chico Police Chief Bruce Hagerty, who wasn't with the department at the time of the accident. "The trouble with pursuits is there is always a possibility that even if the officers do everything 100 percent the way they are trained to do that the pursuit will still end in a tragedy."
Hundreds of innocent people like Kristie Priano die each year as a result of police chases. You'd think law enforcement would have found a safer means to snare a suspect. But some experts we spoke with say there are a lot of police departments out there that will "chase until the wheels fall off."
The Priano's have been working for four years to pass "Kristie's Law" in California. It would restrict police chases to violent felons posing an immediate threat and make it a felony to flee from police. The bill has yet to pass.
Kristie's mom told me something her daughter said to her a few days before she died. "Oh, if I were to die, I'd be okay, because I know in that instant I would be with Jesus," she says Kristy told her.
Candy's reply: "Oh, well, Jesus isn't gonna have you die, because he knows I couldn't live without you."
It was sweet then, but haunting now.