The Utah County Sheriff’s Office is bringing in an outside agency to review its pursuit policy and is paying out an undisclosed amount of money to the family of an 88-year-old man who was killed when the subject of a deputy’s pursuit ran a red light and struck his vehicle.
Sheriff’s office attorney Heather White said part of the policy has been changed as the department awaits the findings of an external review of all its policies, but declined to say what had been changed.
White said the family came to the sheriff’s office after the July 2018 chase with a claim regarding Hal Gadd’s death, saying they didn’t believe Deputy Jeff Wabel should have started chasing the driver of the car involved in the crash, or at least should have stopped the pursuit sooner.
She confirmed the settlement prompted the modification and outside policy analysis. She declined to release the amount of money given to the family.
White said she couldn’t say if Wabel was acting out-of-line with department policies when he gave chase to Trevor Pitcher on July 13, 2018. The sheriff’s office is still conducting an internal review of Wabel’s conduct.
A copy of Utah County Sheriff’s Office pursuit policy released to The Tribune through a GRAMA request states deputies should “carefully weigh the risks inherent in pursuit driving and require reasonable conduct from their fellow deputies, consistent with the legal duties of law enforcement."
The policy also notes, “Deputies engaged in pursuit shall at all times drive in a manner exercising reasonable care for the safety of themselves and all other persons and property within the pursuit area.”
It also states that pursuits “will be abandoned" under some of the following circumstances:
Where the risks of the pursuits are not warranted by the nature of the offense;
Weather or traffic conditions substantially increase the danger of the pursuit;
The danger posed by continuing the pursuit to the public, the deputies, or the suspect is greater than the value of apprehending the suspect(s);
According to Pitcher’s probable cause statement, Wabel initially pulled over Pitcher, who turns 22 Wednesday, in American Fork because of a vehicle registration issue. Pitcher drove away when Wabel walked up to his window, and the deputy chased after.
In all, the pursuit lasted about four minutes, and ended when Pitcher sped through a red light at 50 mph and slammed into the vehicle Marie and Hal Gadd were in. Hal Gadd was killed instantly and Marie Gadd was injured, according to the probable cause statement and a statement from Utah County Sheriff’s Office.
Pitcher was arrested on suspicion of of second-degree felony manslaughter, third-degree felony failure to stop or respond to a command of a police officer, reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor, and a traffic infraction.
Pitcher told police at the time that he didn’t want to be pulled over because “he did not want his truck impounded and he thought officers would eventually stop pursuing him,” according to his probable cause statement.
He ultimately pleaded no contest to a second-degree count of failure to stop or respond to police and the misdemeanor reckless endangerment charge. He was sentenced to between 1 and 15 years in jail, plus an additional year for the misdemeanor charge, according to court documents.
White said Utah County Sheriff’s Office and the Gadd family reached the settlement, which was announced Tuesday, without going to court.
“The County offers its sincere and heartfelt apology and sympathy to the Gadd Family and acknowledges the grace and dignity with which they have borne this tragedy,” a statement from the sheriff’s office reads. “We understand that nothing can restore what the Gadd Family has lost as a result of Hal’s death and offer them support as they move forward without him in their lives.”