Editor’s Note: The loss of life is always tragic. The loss of a child extends that exponentially, regardless of the cause. Our condolences and deepest sympathy go out to everyone involved.
Calhoun County (Michigan) Sheriff’s office released a graphic dashcam video earlier this week which shows a patrol car driven by one of its deputies hitting an 11-year-old boy on a minibike.
The boy, Norman Hood Jr., died as a result of the accident on May 28 in Battle Creek, about 120 miles west of Detroit.
The Calhoun County sheriff’s deputy who fatally struck the child was responding to a report of a possible burglary, traveling at 66 miles per hour — more than double the speed limit — and driving without flashing lights or a siren, as is often the case when reporting to that type of call, according to an investigation report by the Jackson County prosecutor’s office, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News.
The investigation found that the deputy “is not responsible for a criminal act” and will not face charges.
Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbertdescribed the reasoning behind the prosecutor’s decision.
“He found the officer was on duty and responding to an emergency call,” Gilbert revealed in a written statement. “And while he was violating the speed limit, an officer has a statutory right to exceed the limit under those circumstances.”
Jerard Jarzynka, the prosecutor who ultimately made the final decision to decline charges, explainedthat despite Hood’s death being extremely tragic, “Michigan law provides exceptions to whether the officer must use their emergency lights or siren.”
“It is my opinion that this was a tragic accident,” said Jarzynka. “Norman is seen riding the pocket bike wearing dark-colored clothing before abruptly making a sharp turn in front of the deputy. His actions of doing that certainly resulted in this collision. Suddenly he’s just coming out of nowhere.”
Jarzynka also said the deputy, who has not been publicly identified, was responding to a 911 call at the time of the traffic crash and that in such a situation, a police officer can “legally exceed the speed limit to perform his duties.”
Christina Valdez, Norman’s mother, disputes Jarzynka statement.
“He merges from one lane to the next. He does not make no dramatic turn in front of the officer… I’m a mess. I’ve been a mess, crying all day. They’re saying it’s OK… It’s OK you were speeding. Sixty-six miles an hour, really?”
Valadez said that she believes officials are blaming her son for his death.
“I don’t think the officer was looking at the road because if he was looking at the road, he could have hit the brakes, he could have swerved,” Valadez said Friday.
She also said the deputy’s not having his flashing lights or siren on should be addressed.
“How can you warn pedestrians you’re traveling at a high rate? How do you expect anyone to know?” she said. “How was he to hear or see the cop coming? How can you not be at fault for that? I feel that my son was killed, and justice was not served. The average citizen would have to pay for taking a life. The officer gets to go back to work and continue with his life. We will always be without Norman.”
The video released by Michigan State Police shows Norman riding his pocket motorcycle, also known as a minibike. The video also seems to show that the bike did not have lights or signals at the time of the crash. The time stamp on the video shows it to be 21:35, well after dark.
You can watch below, but viewer discretion is advised.
The boy was almost invisible in the video until he veers in front of the cruiser and is picked up by the head lights. The video appears to show that the boy did not look over his shoulder prior to entering the inside lane.
Investigators said Norman rode into the path of the patrol car and the video seems to support that claim.
Authorities states the officer has been on paid administrative leave since the May 28th incident. Although he may not face criminal reprimand, he may still face internal sanctions.
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Hood’s family filed a civil lawsuit, seeking $25 million, against Calhoun County and the unnamed deputy.
“At all relevant times, Defendant Deputy Doe failed to drive at reasonable speeds, so as to assure a safe stop,” the suit alleges. “At all times relevant hereto, Defendant Deputy Doe was grossly negligent when he endangered other drivers by failing to pay attention to the roadway, resulting in Defendant slamming into Plaintiff Norman Hood Jr, who traveling on a bike and with total disregard for plaintiff’s safety.”
The case is currently pending in civil court.
As tragic as the incident is, it begs the question to be asked. What about parental responsibility?
You had an 11-year-old child operating a bike illegally (on multiple counts) in the dark. He is riding alone, on a minibike that is not permitted on the roadway, without a helmet.
According to the requirements in Michigan for operating a motorcycle, the Secretary of State’s website reveals the following:
To operate a motorcycle on public roads, you must possess a valid Michigan driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement. Operating a motorcycle without an endorsement can cost you in the resulting court fines.
A motorcycle is a two- or three-wheeled motor vehicle with a saddle or seat that can attain speeds greater than 30 mph on a level surface. Some vehicles, such as “pocket rockets” or “mini choppers,” may meet this definition, but do not have all of the equipment required by Michigan law to legally drive them on public roads and will not be registered by the Department of State.
The law also stipulates that riders may decide for themselves whether to wear a helmet, but there are conditions to the stipulation.
- READ: SANDERS: ABOLISH ICE, STOP DEPORTATIONS, BRING IN 50K CLIMATE REFUGEES AND GIVE WELFARE TO EVERYONE
To legally not wear a helmet, a motorcycle operator must:
- Be at least 21 years old.
- Have at least $20,000 in first-party medical benefits.
- Have held a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years or have passed an approved motorcycle safety course.
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