Two Dallas police officers were on patrol in South Dallas on the night of April 21 when they saw Fred Bradford, 51, riding his bike behind the Kwick Stop Liquor store on Martin Luther King Boulevard. According to a police report filed at the time, the two officers, Bryan Burgess and Michael Puckett, found his presence behind a closed liquor store in a high-crime area to be suspicious. Plus, he wasn't wearing a bike helmet.
The officers pulled their squad car behind Bradford, who by this point was beside an unoccupied black sedan in the alley, and turned on their emergency lights. Bradford, police say, took off on the bike as Puckett yelled at him to stop. When he didn't, Puckett gave chase on foot while Burgess followed in the car.
Now, the Dallas Police Department overhauled its rules governing car chases in 2006, implementing one of the most restrictive pursuit policies in the country. Officers were no longer allowed to get into a car chase for minor infractions, like traffic violations. Instead, the officer had to have probable cause to believe that a suspect had committed, or was going to commit, a violent felony.
Bradford doesn't seem to have been planning anything violent, but Burgess shadowed him for several blocks while the fleeing cyclist cast frequent glances over his shoulder. He rode across the grass on the west side of Julius Schepps Freeway, then beneath the overpass. When the bike turned south onto the service road, Burgess got a bit too close. According to police, the bike made a sharp left, crashing into the squad car.
Bradford was taken to the hospital, and the incident was largely forgotten. But then, on May 13, Bradford died from his injuries and The Dallas Morning News' Tanya Eiserer began asking police about the chase and whether the officers involved had been disciplined.
After a bit of haggling and a blog post that did little to mask her frustration with DPD's silence in response to her queries, she got an answer.
The department announced Tuesday that it is conducting an investigation and, in the meantime, has placed Burgess on administrative leave.
As CBS 11's Mireya Villareal reported yesterday, the punishment for officers who violate DPD's pursuit policy doesn't tend to be terribly severe.