Milinda Clark, 36

Mother Killed
Police chase did not save her life

Ridgeland, Mississippi—Milinda Clark, 36, of Flowood was doing what many of us do. She was returning to pick up her children at church.

At the same time, Ridgeland Police received a call about two shoplifters. The police response ultimately resulted in a chase with speeds reaching at least 90 mph. And, the consequence?

Milinda Clark was killed. Her two children will bury their mother. The lives of Milinda’s family and friends are forever changed. For some, their lives are forever shattered.

“I did not have the privilege of knowing Milinda,” says Candy Priano, executive director of PursuitSAFETY, a national nonprofit organization. “I do know that this is not the first time a police chase to apprehend shoplifters has killed an innocent person, a mother, a kind person.”

Priano is aware of other police pursuits to catch shoplifters that also resulted in the deaths of innocent bystanders. A Pennsylvania pursuit ended with the deaths of Jolene LaBar and her unborn baby. The suspect took a vacuum cleaner from a mall.

Margaret Branton and her son Lonnie Turner were killed instantly when a crash ended the chase for shoplifters in Georgia. In addition, Lonnie's wife was injured and their unborn baby died.

“There are more … many more,” Priano says. “Yet, one death—one death of an innocent person is one too many.”

On average, crashes due to drivers fleeing from the police kill someone every day. According to a 2004 Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center analysis of nine years of national statistics, "One third of these pursuit fatalities occur to innocent bystanders.”

Other studies by the FBI and recognized researchers in high-risk police activities concur with the Harborview analysis. According to an FBI report, “The lack of a mandatory reporting system hampers our government’s ability to track pursuit fatalities and results in the collection of as little as one-half of the actua data."

The death of Milinda Clark warrants a comprehensive review of the Ridgeland Police pursuit policy. Limited policies, which do not allow police chases for property crimes can work, save lives, and prevent a repeat of these tragedies.