|Opinion: If Only|
Brenda Ehrensperger's voice in this opinion article is one we, at PursuitSAFETY, hear much too often.
by Brenda Ehrensperger
I was absolutely shaken by Trent's statement that speeding to a call saves maybe 90 seconds in response time for a 10-mile drive. Prorating that to an even smaller distance, it means my son was killed in hopes of saving 30-40 seconds or less. The life of a 20 year old with his whole life ahead of him was given in exchange for a few seconds. Would our police make that deal with the lives of their family members?
Another startling statistic in the article is that 76 percent of drivers do not hear a police siren or see the lights in time to react. The police officer who struck my son's car approached him from behind at night at a high rate of speed. He attempted to pass Steven in a no-passing zone. As Trent said, our roadways are not NASCAR where a driver's reaction to a sudden emergency situation can be predicted. The 22-year-old police officer who killed Steven apparently thought he could predict exactly what Steven would do when suddenly put in that situation.
Steven died Nov. 28, 2007, five days after the Uhl sisters died in Illinois. We have no "Director Trent" to come forward and say, "Steven did not die in vain; I will change things as a result of this." In fact, just the opposite has happened. The City of Springville, Alabama, the community where my son lived his whole life, has not come forward to even say they will review their vehicular police response or pursuit procedures. Apparently, they are willing to have other families suffer the same tragedy.
Trent is fighting not only a mindset that police have the right to drive fast, but also a desire on the part of some of our officers to drive fast even when the situation just presents an opportunity. I pray that more officers like Trent will come forward and give a voice to victims like Jessica and Kelli Uhl and my son Steven. May God bless Larry Trent.
Link to article Unwritten Policy, featuring an interview with Larry Trent.
|Steven's Last Day Here|
by Brenda Ehrensperger
Alabama — I often told my son Steven that if before he was born, God had given me a pencil and paper and told me to write about the son I wanted, it would have been him. I was blessed by sharing his life for almost 21 years, until on the night of November 28, 2007, when a young police officer made several bad decisions that cost Steven his life.
My son's last day was a good one. His college classes had ended by midday and it was his best friend Tyler's birthday. They did some of their favorite things that day — played football, went to a movie, just hung out and talked as they often did. Steven left us a lot of messages that were to help us endure the terrible times ahead in his last conversations with Tyler. He told Tyler he was not afraid to die and, if the time came, he was ready. He even told Tyler the clothes he wanted to be buried in when the time came. This along with some recent conversations I had with Steven makes me feel that he almost sensed something was going to happen.
The guys ended their day with Tyler's family getting together at the bowling alley. From what I hear, Steven was on the top of his game that night (he loved to win). Steven had his girlfriend Kimi at his side, so he was truly happy. About 10:30 pm we called Steven. He said he was heading home but wanted to know if he could spend the night with Tyler. Steven came home, picked up his XBOX 360 controller, sent Kimi a text message saying he loved her, came into our bedroom to kiss me goodnight, and told me he loved me. He walked out the door and five minutes later he was dead, killed less than a mile from home.
I followed my husband David downstairs but could go no further than the kitchen. As the man dressed in plain clothes walked into our den, I simply said "Please tell me he is not dead." He looked at me and said he was sorry.
The Horrible Wait for Answers
He was my son — I had a right to know what the injuries were that took his life. The coroner promised he would go over the results of the autopsy when they were available. Instead, an envelope showed up in our mail box. My husband David and I stood in our kitchen and slowly opened the envelope. The report was staggering. Steven's injuries were far greater than anything we had imagined. Multiple skull fractures and brain injuries, 10 broken ribs, ruptured aorta, and every major organ damaged.
No parent should ever have to read the results of an autopsy on their child as my husband and I did. Our beautiful, healthy son's body had simply been destroyed internally. Because Steven's brain was severed from his spinal cord, I felt sure he did not suffer.
Six months was a long time to wait for that answer but nobody seemed to care. Steven's injuries bore witness to the violence of the impact and speed at which the police car was traveling when it struck his car.
Because the crash involved a police officer from a municipality, state troopers were in charge of the investigation. We were initially told the investigation would take about two weeks. Then we were told a month. We learned that the rear tail light bulbs from Steven's car were missing. Who had taken them? We had recently had the car serviced so we knew he had lights. Virtually no information was provided to us as the investigation proceeded. Our son had died and we knew very little about why it happened. Nobody was talking to us. Finally, at the end of May, six months after Steven's death, we learned the homicide report was finished and sent to the state capitol for approval.
Even though we had been told we could see the report once approved, that was not the case. The case was going before a grand jury so we were still not allowed see the report. A county grand jury met on August 11, 2008, and voted not to indict the police officer. We were not allowed to know what was said at the hearing or what evidence was presented. Our son's life was sacrificed and we were not allowed to know the rationale for not holding the officer who caused his death accountable. It is our understanding, however, that there was no specific estimation of the speed of the police car mentioned at the hearing.
And Still We Miss Him