No criminal liability for Monona officer involved in fatal New Year's Day crash

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A Monona police officer who was involved in a pursuit that ended with a crash that killed three people on New Year's Day will not face criminal liability, the Dane County District Attorney announced Friday.
According to DA Ismael Ozanne, the pursuit began at around 9 p.m. on Jan. 1 near the intersection of St. Teresa Terrace and Monona Drive after an officer witnessed an SUV turn abruptly. The officer believed that the SUV was trying to avoid him.

The officer followed the SUV into a parking lot. The SUV allegedly didn't park, but instead turned around and sped past the officer onto Nichols Road. A chase ensued, with speeds reaching above 80 mph.

Ozanne said the SUV traveled along Nichols Road onto Pflaum Road toward Stoughton Road, running a red light in the process. It then turned onto Agriculture Drive, then west onto Femrite Drive before making a U-turn and traveling east in the westbound lanes.

Dane County Sheriff's deputies tried to use a spike strip at the intersection of Femrite Drive and County Highway AB, but were unsuccessful. The SUV then ran a stop sign before hitting a tree.

According to Ozzane, video from a squad car shows the SUV's brake lights activating before the vehicle hits the tree. A fireball can also be seen. All three people inside the SUV were pronounced dead at the scene. Ozanne said none of them were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

A search of the vehicle allegedly uncovered two stolen guns as well as marijuana. Toxicology reports allegedly showed that the driver had Delta-9/THC, methamphetamine and promethazine in their system at the time of the crash.

"In this death investigation, law enforcement’s attention was drawn to a vehicle due to erratic movements," Ozanne said. "Law enforcement’s attempt to catch up to said vehicle did not cause the crash, as law enforcement never came into actual contact with the vehicle in question. There is also no evidence that law enforcement’s attempt to use a spike strip had any impact on the vehicle’s condition such as deflating the tires."

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