A 20-year-old motorcycle rider, seriously injured in a collision with a police car, is no longer a suspect in the robbery that led to the high-speed chase, according to police.
Police confirmed Monday that the rider, Roger Johann Wood, had been eliminated from inquiries into the attempted robbery at Smugglers Rum Bar on Thursday night.
He was pursued for 11 miles across Grand Cayman by patrol cars, guided by the police helicopter, after being spotted speeding on an unlicensed dirt-bike, close to the scene of the robbery.
The chase came to an end near the Lantern Point condo complex when Mr. Wood was thrown from his bike after a collision with a police car. He had surgery on a broken back in Miami on Saturday. His father Roger Wood said Monday he was hopeful that his son would walk again.
A statement from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service on Monday said, “After reviewing all information available, detectives have concluded that the man involved in a high-speed chase with officers last Thursday night, April 7, was not involved in the attempted robbery at the Smugglers Rum Bar.”
Mr. Wood said his son had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I knew he was not involved in the robbery. I know Roger well, I knew he wouldn’t be involved in anything like that. I don’t excuse him for running from the police but it is wrong what they did. We are definitely pursuing this,” said Mr. Wood, who has called for an independent investigation into the chase.
He said his son, who broke his back, hip and pelvis in the accident, was in a lot of pain, but had come through a successful operation on Saturday. He is scheduled for further surgery this week.
“We are talking about months of recovery and we don’t know how it is going to turn out,” he said. “The doctors told me people have come in, in a much worse condition than him and have walked out. Hopefully, it goes well and that’s what happens.”
Police pursuit policy
The police pursuit policy requires officers to balance the gravity of a suspected offense with the threat to public safety when engaging in chases on Cayman’s roads, raising the possibility that the pursuit of Mr. Wood may have been called off sooner, had he not been speeding in the vicinity of a recent armed robbery incident.
A police spokeswoman said, “When pursuing individuals suspected of a crime, the decision is made to pursue balancing the safety of the public, the pursued, and the police officer, with the gravity of the offense believed to have been committed and the danger the driving of the pursued person also presents to the public.”
She added, “What cannot happen is that officers are disallowed from pursuing suspected criminals simply because they happen to be going fast and trying to elude capture.”
The police chase policy has come under scrutiny in the past, most notably when the family of Bruce Lee Ebanks, who was killed during a high-speed police chase in February, 2008, successfully sued the Government over the death. Justice Alexander Henderson ruled that police had not followed proper procedures during that pursuit because, in his view, it had not been monitored by a supervisor, as required by the police pursuit policy.
Judge Henderson said the “negligent failure to end the pursuit was one factor which contributed to the accident.” The judge indicated that a police supervisor, not directly involved in the pursuit, is required to make a continuous, real-time assessment of whether the chase should continue.
He said the chase supervisor was required to make that assessment based on the speed of the vehicles, the traffic conditions and the nature of the suspected offence and determine “moment by moment, whether the risk is justified by the gravity of the suspected wrongdoing.”
Any doubt, he ruled, should be decided in favor of public safety.