Man involved in fatal, high-speed crash says officers should have handled chase differently

Man involved in fatal, high-speed crash says officers should have handled chase differently

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A man involved in a fatal, high-speed crash last week says officers should have handled the situation differently.

A pursuit of a stolen car started Friday in Westwego and ended in Marrero with one teen dead and another in custody.

Wade Gaubert says he was just trying to get home from work Friday when his truck was hit by the stolen car being chased by officers.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office says this all happened after license plate recognition cameras identified the Prius was stolen out of New Orleans.

Westwego officers spotted the car and followed it. But the sheriff says when those officers tried to stop the car, the driver took off. After a short chase, the Prius crashed into Gaubert’s truck, which was traveling in the opposite direction. The passenger in the Prius, identified as 17-year-old Zyonne Willis, died at the scene. The 16-year-old driver was arrested and charged with manslaughter, possession of stolen property and aggravated flight from an officer. Police have not released his name.

We spoke with Gaubert while he was at home recovering with a broken wrist. He believes the chase put his life and other innocent bystanders in danger.

“I definitely felt that my life was put at risk, definitely. I could have died, my wife could be today without a husband, my son too, all because of me just trying to go home, getting involved in a chase that they’re doing, that they’re pursuing on the street. The speed limit on that street is 35 for a reason,” said Gaubert.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office handled the traffic crash because it happened in an unincorporated part of the parish. The Westwego Police Department handled the recovery of the stolen car and the arrest of the driver.

In response to Gaubert’s statement, Westwego Police Chief Dwayne Munch says the pursuit was short and lasted less than a mile. He says police have a job to do and they’re going to do it. He added that if they never chased those accused of a felony, criminals would know they can get away with anything if they just start driving fast.

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