MILWAUKEE (AP) — A toddler, her young mother and a man died when their vehicle drove into a frigid river while being chased by the Milwaukee Police.
Surveillance video shows the vehicle speeding and the driver losing control before the SUV crashed into the Kinnickinnic River Monday night. It’s unclear who was driving the vehicle.
Sgt. Sheronda Grant, a police spokeswoman, said an officer tried to stop the vehicle because it matched the description of a car involved in two separate armed robberies earlier in the day. When the car fled, the officer chased after it.
The body of the toddler’s 19-year-old mother was recovered from the water Monday but she was pronounced dead at the scene. Divers found the bodies of a 2-year-old girl and a 29-year-old man on Tuesday afternoon after the SUV was removed from the water.
Grant didn’t know whether the toddler was in the car when the robberies were committed, or how many people were robbed.
Autopsies were scheduled for Wednesday, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office. Police have not released the identities of the three people who were killed.
Kristin Nehmer, who said she is the sister of the woman who died, told WTMJ-TV that she was having difficulty understanding why her sibling was fleeing police with her young daughter in the vehicle.
“I can’t imagine why she would have her daughter with her when she is doing things like that. That’s the hardest part,” Nehmer said. “She had a really good heart. She made a bad decision, but she was 19.”
Nehmer said her sister’s name was Shannan Nehmer.
In September 2017, Milwaukee Police expanded the guidelines for when officers can initiate high-speed vehicle pursuits after public outcry over police not chasing reckless drivers. From 2010 until the guidelines were expanded, officers were only allowed to chase drivers suspected of committing a violent felony — a directive put in place after four bystanders were killed during police chases.
Now, in addition to violent felonies, police can pursue vehicles that “present a clear and immediate threat to the safety of others,” according to the guidelines, as well as when a car is being used for drug dealing.
The Wisconsin State Patrol is investigating the crash and whether adverse road conditions or drugs played a role in the deaths.
Grant urged drivers suspected of a crime to stop for police instead of fleeing.
“If not, they place their lives and the lives of others at risk,” she said.