Updated: 6 p.m. | Posted: 11:44 a.m.
The Minnesota State Patrol troopers who pursued a speeding driver through Minneapolis neighborhoods in a June chase that ended up badly injuring three children operated within agency guidelines on pursuits, the patrol's chief said Tuesday.
"The troopers are working today. The critical incident review board found they were within our existing policy," State Patrol Chief Col. Matt Langer told reporters as he released squad video showing the chase. "It's not comfortable to see troopers drive fast ... but there are times when their jobs require it."
The six-minute pursuit ended when the driver slammed into a local Minneapolis park and hit the playing children.
"They were doing the best job they could to mitigate potential risks," Langer said of the troopers in the June pursuit. "It's a subjective analysis .... We continue to search for best practices in our policy," adding that the patrol's policy review on chases was ongoing.
Squad car video shows the crash, and the patrol released the video and other investigative data at a press conference at its downtown St. Paul headquarters Tuesday. Langer said the patrol would not release video showing the moment the children were hit.
The fleeing driver, 27-year-old Kabaar Wahleen Powell, of Richfield, pleaded guilty to two counts of fleeing police and was sentenced to 33 months in prison in August.
Police also found a loaded handgun and drug paraphernalia in the crashed SUV, according to the complaint against Powell.
The crash left 2-year-old Kayden Peltier with a broken neck and pelvis among other injuries; he was hospitalized for weeks. Sister Lillianna, 4, suffered bleeding between the brain and the tissue covering the brain. Brother Konnor, 3, was also taken to the hospital but was not hurt as badly as his two siblings.
Peltier family attorney James Schwebel said that the 2-year-old is likely to have suffered permanent injury and that the family will likely pursue a lawsuit against the State Patrol, in part just to pay the family's enormous medical bills.
"This is an open and shut case," Schwebel said. "There are experts on police pursuits that just see this as a textbook example of the insanity of subjecting the public to injury and death to catch a speeder."
Schwebel said troopers should have ended their pursuit and sought some other, safer way, to apprehend Powell.
For his part, Langer laid the blame on Powell, saying ultimately it would have been better if the chase had never started, after one trooper spotted Powell speeding on Interstate 94.
"This never would have happened had Powell stopped on the ramp, or on the freeway, or anywhere short of that park," Langer said.
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The criminal complaint against Powell says a trooper spotted him speeding on Interstate 94 and then he sped away when the trooper tried to pull him over.
Investigators say he was going as fast as 80 miles per hour during a 6-minute chase on residential streets and that he blew more than 20 stop signs as squads pursued him.
He eventually turned off road and through Bohannon Park, near Jenny Lind Elementary School, where he sped across a basketball court and came to a stop when the vehicle crashed into a swing set. Investigators later determined he'd had his driver's license revoked and had been involved in another chase just three days earlier.
Langer said State Patrol pursuits have jumped dramatically since 2010 and that Minnesota isn't alone in seeing this rise in people fleeing officers in vehicles. Troopers, he added, must constantly weigh safety with the need to apprehend potential criminals.
"If there was an easy solution, if there was an easy policy change that would eliminate the risk to everyone involved, we would do that," he said.
Correction (Dec. 4, 2018): An earlier version of this story misidentified two of the children.