Pursuit Policy may be re-examined by City Marshal after deadly crash investigation complete

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) We’re taking a closer look at vehicle pursuit policies for the Lafayette City Marshal’s Office, after a recent one turned deadly in a crash on May 30.
 
According to Louisiana State Police, Deputy Marshals’ were pursuing 38-year-old Ashley Berza of Lafayette, who was wanted on multiple bench warrants.

Berza was driving Northbound on LA 182.
She crossed the center line trying to flee deputies and struck 85-year old Gurvais Matte’s vehicle.
Matte died four days after the crash on Sunday, and was a longtime musician and radio host of KRVS Sunday morning Cajun music show, Dimache Matin.
 
Policies are written to be as good as you can make them, but no policy is perfect, said C. Michael Hill, current Lafayette City Marshal.
 
The pursuit was less than 2 miles and was under 2 minutes.
However, the crash ended up turning deadly, and now changes could be coming to the department’s pursuit policies after State Police finish their investigation.
 
The driver of the car who we were pursuing had an active felony warrant, and another warrant for failure to appear, said Hill.
 
In general terms, the current pursuit policy for the Marshal’s Office according to Hill is…
 
You have to make a decision whether or not this is a pursuit that this has to be initiated. And that is dependent on a number of facts, he said.
 
For instance, if it’s an automobile pursuit, it could depend on the weather, traffic patterns, if there are a lot of pedestrians the area and more.
 
We have to remember, that this pursuit was not in a sense initiated by the deputy. It was initiated by a person who was fleeing who had felony, serious felony charges, and who was fleeing 2 and then a third marked police unit with lights, said Hill.
 
State Police have taken over the criminal investigation.
Once that’s complete..
 
We will assess the conduct of the deputies involved, to see whether it meets the standards set by our pursuit policy.

After that happens, whichever way that assessment comes out, we will re-assess, said Hill.
 
He says the pursuit policy has been in place before he took office.
And changes could be coming to that policy and others down the road.
 
He who is not willing to re-assess this policy or a similar policy when you have this type of incident, I think is just pulling a hood over his eyes, said Hill.
 
Berza was released Tuesday from the hospital for her injuries.
The Marshal’s Office booked her with those outstanding warrants.
 
Additional charges could be coming once State Police wrap up their investigation.
Those potential additional charges will ultimately be decided by the district attorney.
 
Funeral services were held Wednesday for Matte.
 
Hill says he will make no decisions about anything regarding this case, until the full facts are in front of him.

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