Wisconsin DOJ investigating after Monona Police chase ended in fatal crash

Three occupants of a vehicle that fled police died on scene, authorities say

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Police car
Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating a New Year’s Day police chase that ended in a fatal crash in south central Wisconsin.

Three passengers in the fleeing car died at the scene of the crash, and the officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave, authorities say.

The incident began when the Monona Police Department attempted a traffic stop just after 9 p.m. Monday at Nichols and Monona Drive, and the vehicle fled, according to a news release from Wisconsin’s Department of Justice, which oversees the DCI.

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A Dane County sheriff’s deputy put down a tire deflation device and the vehicle crashed near the intersection of Femrite Drive and Buckeye Road in the town of Cottage Grove, according to the DOJ.

The DOJ news release says Monona Police tried to pull over a “suspicious vehicle,” but does not give details about the reason for the stop.

In a statement Tuesday morning, Monona’s Police Chief Brian Chaney said the department is “comprised of caring and compassionate law enforcement professionals.”

“As Chief, I am committed to supporting the community, our impacted staff and the families of those involved in this incident,” the statement said. “We are also committed to respecting the process and I have full confidence in the WI Department of Justice.”

Monona Police are referring media inquiries to the Wisconsin DOJ, which had not responded to follow-up questions as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Monona Police Department’s policy manual instructs officers to weigh a variety of factors before attempting vehicle pursuits, including the seriousness of the suspected crime, the potential dangers to bystanders and others and weather, road and traffic conditions.

Monona’s City Council adopted revisions to that policy in late 2022, after the city’s police chief argued the previous policy was too restrictive, according to reporting from the Harold-Independent and McFarland Thistle. The prior policy, which had been adopted in 2020, barred pursuits involving high speeds or dangerous driving unless there was probable cause that someone in the vehicle had committed, or was about to commit, a violent felony, according to the newspaper.

The incident in Dane County comes less than two weeks after two 10-year-old passengers died in a rollover crash following a separate car chase in southeastern Wisconsin.

The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department said that vehicle was stopped for speeding and not having license plates. The car’s 29-year-old driver, who was the father of the two boys who died, faces nearly a dozen felony charges following the Dec. 20 pursuit which began in Pewaukee and ended in Delafield.

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