Even if what they put in the police report were true -- and it's now clear that it wasn't -- Dallas police officers Bryan Burgess and Michael Puckett had no business chasing Fred Bradford Jr. on the night of April 21. The two officers were on patrol in South Dallas when they spotted Bradford on his bicycle on Martin Luther King Boulevard and decided he looked suspicious.
Both official DPD policy and a basic understanding of the physics of a Dodge Charger-versus-bicycle collision would dictate that Burgess not follow in his squad car when Bradford began to ride away. But Burgess did exactly that, while Puckett got out and followed on foot. The brief chase ended a few blocks later with a fatal crunch in the service road of Julius Schepps Freeway.
Burgess and Puckett were both fired by Police Chief David Brown following a disciplinary hearing last night. According to police, an internal investigation concluded they'd recklessly endangered Bradford's life by giving chase and then attempted to cover the incident up by lying to their bosses, internal affairs investigators, and on multiple police reports. It's not clear from DPD's news release what aspects of the chase they fudged.
But losing the patrol job he's had for the past four years wasn't the end of the case for Burgess. He was arrested last night on a charge of criminally negligent homicide, which carries a potential sentence of six months to two years in prison. He also now has the FBI to deal with:
FBI investigating Puckett and Burgess for civil rights viol. Burgess was also arrested for crim negligent homicide.^sj
— Dallas Police Depart (@DallasPD) August 21, 2013
Nor were Burgess and Puckett the only Dallas cops fired last night. Brown canned two officers for squirreling away hundreds of unworked domestic violence cases and two more for other infractions.
"It's obviously not a great day for the department," as Brown put it at a news conference.
Update at 3:41 p.m.: DPD released Burgess' arrest affidavit, which provides more detail on what Burgess is accused of.
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Officer Puckett and Officer Burgess continued to pursue Mr. Bradford, who eventually turned southbound into a grassy area on the east side of the 3000 Block of Julius Schepps Service Road. When Mr. Bradford turned into the grassy area, it caused him to slow down, while at the same time his feet slipped off the bicycle pedals. Officer Burgess turned southbound into the grassy area and was traveling so fast that he could not compensate for the change in speed. Officer Burgess locked his brakes, however his speed was such that he couldn't stop.
Burgess, realizing what had happened, moved the squad car, and he and Puckett indicated to paramedics that Bradford had been hit by another car in the street. He'd moved Bradford into the grass to keep him from getting hit by another car, and he'd moved his squad car to make room for the ambulance. He repeated the story to his supervisor and an accident investigator.