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LAPD pursuit of human trafficking suspects ends when crash kills bystander in Koreatown

Police approach a car involved in a fatal collision
LAPD officers approach a vehicle involved in a fatal collision in Koreatown.
(OnScene.TV)

A Los Angeles police pursuit of human trafficking suspects in a Mercedes-Benz ended in a three-car crash in Koreatown shortly before midnight Thursday, killing an innocent motorist and injuring three others.

The person killed, who has not been identified, was an innocent bystander, said LAPD Lt. Rex Ingram.

“Our hearts go out,” he said. “It’s tragic for the victim of the human trafficking and also for the victim’s family, the victim of this traffic collision.”

Police officers were conducting undercover surveillance of human trafficking suspects at Melrose and Western avenues when they saw the suspects drop off an apparent victim about 11:40 p.m., according to LAPD Officer Tony Im. When the officers attempted a traffic stop, the black Mercedes-Benz sped away, he said.

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The pursuit continued until the Mercedes struck three other vehicles at Sixth Street and Wilton Avenue in Koreatown, he said. The force of the collision sent some of the vehicles spinning around the intersection, while the Mercedes crashed into some bushes.

One of two people in a white Toyota truck was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The other person was taken to a hospital.

At least three other motorists suffered serious injuries in the collision, police said. The two male suspects in the Mercedes suffered minor injuries, police said.

LAPD officials did not identify the dead pending notification of next of kin.

The two suspects, whom police described only as in their 20s, could be seen on video being removed from the Mercedes by officers. As of Friday morning, the LAPD did not have formal booking information for the pair.

Detectives also are interviewing a woman investigators believe was the victim of a human trafficking scheme, police said.

In 2017, a grand jury found police chases in Los Angeles County are “causing unnecessary bystander injuries and deaths” and that law enforcement officers need better training to reduce the risk of crashes during high-speed pursuits, according to a report.

The report came after a data analysis by the Los Angeles Times showed that 1 in 10 car chases initiated by the Los Angeles Police Department from 2006 to 2014 resulted in injuries to civilians.

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The grand jury said both the LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department need to improve training for officers who engage in pursuits, and questioned the need to chase suspects for nonviolent crimes.

Citing data provided by the California Highway Patrol, the grand jury report found that 17% of the car chases that took place in the county in a 12-month period beginning in October 2015 ended in a crash that could have resulted in injury or death. Two-thirds of those 421 pursuits ended in an arrest.


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