Candy Priano's Press Conference

March 7, 2005 at 11 a.m.

Governor's Press Room, California State CapitolĀ 

Thank you for being here. Ironically, I wish I was not here -- that there was no reason for me to talk to you.

Today, I will tell you a little bit about Kristie, the pursuit that resulted in Kristie's death, that I do support law enforcement, and why we need to do a better job of protecting innocent bystanders and police officers.

I find myself in a place where I never dreamed possible: that I would out live one of my two precious children. People liken what happened to my family as a "nightmare.”How I wish it was a nightmare because then I would wake up. The nightmare would be over and I would hear my Kristie talking and laughing. I would give her a hug, and she would give me one right back. My Kristie loved hugs.

I'm going to tell you a story: Two months before Kristie was killed, as our family was having dinner, she shared with us that in health class she had learned how to become an organ donor. I can still hear and see my Kristie as she said,“I would definitely want to donate my organs. If I were to die, what good would they do me?”

I immediately thought:“Oh, that's my Kristie!" I looked at my 15-year-old daughter with an admiring smile but then my expression must have changed. Kristie jumped up from the dinner table, put her arms around me and said, "Mom, you worry too much!" And then her favorite line: "Don't ya' know Jesus tells us not to worry?" She often read my mind and gave me comforting hugs. I thought I would have her hugs for the rest of my life.

... and Kristie did give the gift of life to four other Californians.

Kristie also had the gift of joy. She spread her joy throughout the Chico community. She volunteered at her school, volunteered for Christian organizations and when she was 13 and 14, she spent her Saturday mornings, and summers taking care of injured animals at the Chico Creek Nature Center. She also loved to run and ran in races to raise money for cancer and for AIDS.

When I heard stories about parents who had to bury their children, I thought, I could never live if that happened to me. That surely I would die too. And indeed part of me has died. And for anyone in the audience who has had to bury a child, my heart goes out to you. And perhaps you understand why, when I learned the facts of this chase, and I found out that Kristie 's death could have been prevented that she did not need to die to keep someone else safe, why I had to do something to prevent this tragedy from happening to others. To prevent this tragedy from happening again so no other mother has to bury her precious child and only to find out later that her child's death was so unnecessary.

Through the kristieslaw website, I have also learned that I am not alone. I receive emails from others who have had innocent loved ones killed in pursuits. These emails are easy to identify. The subject lines simply read: "I am the Aunt," or "My Mom," "My Grandmother," "My father was hurt," "My Niece," "My daughter too was killed," or "It happened to me," "My uncle was killed," and more and more the subject lines read, "Has this law passed yet?"

In one email a son of a victim wrote: "I thought no one cared until I saw my mom's name on your website. We still don't know why the police were chasing that man. But my family is ruined." Another mother whose child was killed in 1990 simply wrote: "It's about time."

Through the KristiesLaw Web site, I have also been contacted by law enforcement. Officers tell me that I'm on the right track. Some officers have even asked me to post their quotes on the website.

No one supports law enforcement more than I. Officers risk their lives for us every day. They are underpaid, overworked and greatly underappreciated. Yet, I have learned that California's pursuit practices put street officers in a very bad situation. It forces our officers to make decisions without requiring them to follow proper policy and guidelines.

When it comes to police pursuits that end in the tragic death or permanent injury of an innocent person, I blame the people who flee. People who flee do not care about anyone's safety, so the burden to protect the innocent, by necessity, falls on the police.

The majority of pursuits do not involve murderers or someone who has just kidnapped a child. In fact these kinds of chases are rare, and I support pursuits to apprehend violent felons.

If Kristie had been killed to save a kidnapped child's life, I would still be filled with grief, but I would understand the necessity of that chase and I would not be here today. Kristie was a passenger in our family van as we were driving through a residential neighborhood at night on our way to her high school basketball game. She was safely seat-belted behind her father, when a teen fleeing from police struck our van directly were Kristie was sitting.

Prior to the chase, the Chico police knew the full identity of the teen: her name, age and address. Chico officers even observed the teen, and there is nothing in the police report to suggest that her driving was posing an immediate threat to public safety. They also knew the vehicle was not "stolen" that it was just her mother's car. Officers knew the teen had not killed anyone and that she had not kidnapped a child.

Every day I recall my son's face when he told me, "Mom, the last thing I remember was Kristie laughing." The last thing I remember was hearing both my children laughing. I smiled and looked out the window into the dark night, thinking I was the luckiest mom in the world.

In closing, we need to make our streets safer for all of us in California. We can achieve this goal without impeding the apprehension of dangerous suspects. And, the other people who flee, the nonviolent suspects, officers who write to me say, "With good police work, we can catch them in another way, without putting the lives of innocent people in harm's way.”

Thank you.