My Dad

James "Jim" R. Richeson

Jeff's first email message to PursuitSAFETY that introduced us to his father, James Richeson.

December 11, 2011—You don’t know me but I just want to thank you for creating the website and organization. My father was an innocent victim of a pursuit and was killed in Washington State in March of 1996 on his way home from work. I always wanted to have a website like this to help spread awareness and try to fix the problem in this country of unnecessary high speed pursuits. I lost my Dad to expired license tabs and as the time nears for his murderer to get out of prison (February 2015) all the emotions come back again.

Thank you. Sites like this have been needed for a long time.

Jeff Richeson
Newport, Oregon

A Son's Words

My Dad: James (Jim) R. Richeson
Born: May 19th, 1940 in Ellensburg, WA
He was killed on March 7th, 1996 at the age of 55

My Mom was sick with cancer at the time and Dad worked a swing shift for Boise Cascade in Yakima, WA, about 30 minutes from Ellensburg. He got off work around 11 pm or so, got on the freeway and headed home.

Some time earlier, an officer on duty at a weigh station near Cle Elum, WA, noticed two men in an old Camaro that wouldn’t start in his parking area. He investigated and noted the car had expired license plate tabs. He called it in to Washington State Patrol officers and was told to “let them go; we’ll catch them later.” The officer at the weigh station gave the Camaro a jump start and sent them on their way.

Minutes later Washington State Patrol saw the vehicle and attempted to pull them over. The Camaro fled. Officers lost the vehicle 20 miles later in the town of Ellensburg but saw them again enter the freeway and head south toward Yakima where the pursuit continued.

The Camaro exited I-84 in a very remote (high desert area) and drove behind a gravel pile to try and hide. The officers pulled off as well and when the Camaro saw them, they were allowed to drive out a narrow drive, past the officers and onto the freeway on-ramp.

This area of central Washington from the gravel pit area to Yakima has many valleys, there are very few places for a car to exit or even go off road. The State Patrol laid a spike strip across lanes of traffic that were 15 miles down the freeway. They laid them down on one of the only few places where crossing the median and getting onto the oncoming lanes of traffic was very easy to do. 

The oncoming lanes of traffic were never shut down. The Camaro saw the spike strips and crossed over the median, now driving southbound in the northbound lanes at 125-135mph, no head lights.

The pursuing officers shadowed in the southbound lanes and were not running any emergency lights whatsoever. They would later testify that they were not pursuing the vehicle, they were following it (really?). The Camaro drove three miles on the wrong side of the freeway. He came around a bend and stuck a pickup truck, driven by a co-worker of my Dad who had also just got off work, and hit him head on. Randy’s truck held strong and though injured, he survived the crash. After hitting Randy, the Camaro went airborne and flew into my Dad’s car killing him instantly…

…had to take a break after writing that. I suppose the pain will never completely go away.

Obviously, after the crash there were a lot of questions, as I’m sure you are well aware.

Mom was initially told that Dad was killed by a drunk driver. This was obviously not the case. In fact the driver was sober and had no drugs in his system at all. The Camaro driver survived the crash, his passenger who was also his brother did not survive.

The Camaro driver was sentenced to over 19 years in State prison and is due for release in February 2015.

The Washington State Patrol officer in charge from beginning to end of the pursuit turned out to be the son of my Mom’s maid of honor in 1960. Small world.

We filed a civil suit against the Washington State Patrol, the officers involved and the Camaro driver. It took several years to finish and in the end the Camaro driver was found to be 100% responsible. The injustice that was done is appalling. Even though I knew the officers had immunity, for there to be no fault on the part of their judgment was and still is absurd.

My Mom was never the same again. Though she continued her cancer treatments and survived a few more years, her ‘fight’ was gone and depression was a real problem. She passed March 1st, 2002 at the age of 59.

I would still like to recover some day from the Camaro driver what he lost in the civil case, if anything, it would make him never forget and be reminded every time he wrote a check that he took something very dear to me and my family. I’m not sure I’ve really forgiven him, nor do I know if I can. 

Thank you for listening,


"My Dad's car after the crash. I’ve always wanted to hold this picture up to the officers in charge that night and ask them if this was worth expired license plate tabs."

Jeff exchanged emails with both Jon Farris, PursuitSAFETY's board chairman, and Candy Priano, PursuitSAFETY executive director. Here's one of their heartfelt exchanges:

From: Jon Farris, Dec. 12, 2011

Hi Jeff,

Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story with us. I am truly sorry about the pursuit-related death of your dad and of your mom’s cancer and passing. I lost my dad to cancer and that remains a very sad time in my life.

Candy is right – this madness has been going on forever. We have a huge and challenging task to enlighten police, legislators, the media, and the public in general. But we know with continued outreach, new involved and caring members, and a lot more work that PursuitSAFETY will known throughout the country.

I was interested in your closing comments. We recently finished the criminal case with the perp who killed my son Paul. He received 15-20 years plus 20 years probation with no chance of ever being licensed. This individual had no assets whatsoever. He also truly didn’t get it. My guess is many of the criminals who flee are similar and don’t get it – even seeing grieving family has no impact on them.

I will never forgive the idiot who took my son and that doesn’t bother me. But I believe, more importantly, that I will continue to erase him from my mind. He has been flushed out by the beautiful memories of my son. 

Thanks again for finding PursuitSAFETY. I hope we have a chance to meet in the future.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday cherishing memories of your parents. Also wishing you inner peace in wherever this journey continues to take you.

Warmest regards,

From: Jeff Richeson, Dec. 13, 2011

Thank you for the note, Jon. My heart goes out to you and your family, I hate to even imagine losing one of my kids. One comment on your website, ‘if simple judgment had been used,’ really rang true for me as well. Back in 1996 we were talking about “high speed pursuit syndrome” or something to that effect. I truly believe that a lot of officers chase, because someone is running, kind of like a cat chasing a mouse. Doesn’t matter why the mouse is running, that cat is going to chase it.

The night I lost my Dad, officers had several opportunities to use simple judgment and stop the chase. Once before they were jump started (by the weigh station officer) and sent along their way from the weigh station, the second chance came at the gravel pits where blocking the car or even ramming them at a low speed were realistic options, their placement of the spike strips and again when common sense would have told a normal person to maybe close the opposing lanes of traffic since they gave the fleeing car an easy route into the other lanes. 

I’ve attached another image to this email. It’s of my Dads car. I’ve always want to hold this picture up to the officers in charge that night and ask them if this was worth expired license plate tabs. One thing I didn’t mention in my message was that the Washington State Patrol officer in charge that night Ken Wade, was the son of the maid of honor in my Mom and Dad’s wedding. We grew up around each other. He never showed any remorse, he never showed any sign whatsoever of being sorry for what happened. I guess it was more important for him to protect his job and hold his ground that he did nothing wrong. In many ways, I have as much animosity for him as I do the guy that was actually fleeing.

I’m so thankful that there is now someone out there speaking for all the victims and trying to enact change. You certainly have my support 100%. --Jeff