County Attorney: No Criminal Negligence by WSU Officer Who Beat and Killed Pedestrian; speed a possible factor | News, Sports, Jobs
Photo provided, Weber County District Attorney’s Office
OGDEN — A Weber State University police officer was apparently speeding — 19 mph over the limit, according to one calculation — when his patrol cruiser hit and killed a pedestrian on Washington Boulevard last September 30.
The officer, Paul Tavake, also told a responding Ogden officer that he briefly looked at his police laptop before his car hit William Casselman, 69, at a Washington crosswalk and 27th Street around 10:40 p.m.
After reviewing a report of the incident by his office’s force investigation team, Weber County District Attorney Christopher Allred concluded there was no criminal negligence on Tavake’s part. . “It was an unfortunate and terrible accident,” Allred said Tuesday.
Regarding potential speeding or distracted driving offenses, Allred said his office did not forward any recommendations to the Ogden City Attorney’s Office for citations because the evidence of speeding speed were “vague” and inaccurate, and that law enforcement is permitted by law to look at electronic devices while driving.
A worker with the city attorney’s office who declined to be named said Wednesday there were no traffic citations against Tavake on file in the town of Ogden. Prosecutor Greg Burdett did not immediately return a phone call regarding the Tavake case.
Photo provided, Weber County District Attorney’s Office
According to the inquest report, Ogden Police crash reconstruction investigator Mark Johnson calculated Tavake’s estimated speed at the time of the crash as 54mph in a 35mph zone. However, the estimate had a margin of error of 9 mph, meaning a potential range of 45-63 mph.
An electronic police dispatch log reported that Tavake’s vehicle was traveling at 47 mph 150 feet from the intersection. Investigators also attempted to download the patrol cruiser’s “black box”, which could have indicated the speed at impact. “It failed due to box malfunction and power failure,” the report said.
Allred said Wednesday that the speed estimates “are important to the reconstruction of the crash, but it’s probably not the kind of evidence you could convict anyone with.” Speeding citations are usually based on radar readings, he said. “The reason we haven’t forwarded this with any direction (for citation) is because we don’t know how you precisely prove this speed.”
He said Tavake’s case received “exactly the same assessment of the evidence” as any other case. “The fact that he is a police officer does not change this analysis,” he said.
The inquest report says Tavake told an Ogden officer that night, “I looked down at (the laptop) and looked up and the guy was right there.” The report says looking at the laptop would fall under state law prohibiting the use of a portable wireless communication device while driving. However, this law exempts police officers when they use such devices as part of their duties.
“Investigators found no evidence on either device (laptop or phone) to show that Officer Tavake was texting, watching videos or having apps open. He was not chatting with anyone. on the computer,” the report said.
The investigation also showed that Casselman was crossing the intersection with the “Do Not Walk” symbol illuminated. Casselman had pressed the button to cross, but the light had turned green two seconds before, meaning he would not get the safety signal until the lights were restarted, the inquest found.
Casselman, using a cane and crossing from west to east, was initially protected by a red light, but halfway through it turned green. The crash happened in the outside lane, with Tavake entering the intersection on a green light.
Upon impact, Casselman was propelled about 40 feet into the air and then slid 111 feet onto the pavement, according to the report. A subsequent autopsy report determined that Casselman had died of multiple blunt injuries.
“Evidence suggesting that Casselman was difficult to see while at the intersection can be seen in surveillance footage,” the report said, referring to video from a nearby business that police reviewed.
Tavake, driving north, was on his way to a standard patrol to check downtown WSU at 2314 Washington Blvd. The report says Tavake has been with the Weber Police since April 2020, assigned to the Patrol Division.
The county attorney’s report says Tavake declined to speak to investigators, an increasingly common move by officers involved in incidents involving fatalities. Lawyers for police associations often advise officers not to talk to investigators about criminal cases. But in the meantime, officers are required to speak to their department’s internal investigators.
The Weber Police Department placed Tavake on paid leave after the crash, standard practice while investigating the incidents.
In response to questions about Tavake’s status, Weber State spokeswoman Allison Hess said Wednesday that the officer returned to duty Nov. 15. “We relied on the county’s investigation” in making this decision, she said.
However, the case remains under investigation at the Weber Police Department.
In a statement prepared for the university, Hess said, “Weber State is currently conducting an internal review, which we do whenever there is an incident involving injuries. The investigation may result in disciplinary action or remedial training.
The statement added: “We continue to offer our condolences for a life lost in the community of Ogden.”