Calif. Deputies' Handling of Pursuit Questioned

SAN DIEGO --

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department answered to criticism Friday about a high-speed pursuit from Imperial Beach to Coronado that left two people dead.

Sheriff's Sgt. Roy Frank with the department's Homicide Unit said because of the crime involved, the actions of deputies were justified and the department is "comfortable" with their procedures.

Deputies first got involved when someone called 911 to report a kidnapping and carjacking Thursday morning. Authorities said a woman, believed to be 24-year-old Jamie Guillen, stole a Ford pickup truck at knifepoint in Imperial Beach and headed onto State Route 75 in Coronado. The pursuit ended when the truck lost control, killing Guillen and a male passenger inside. The identity of the deceased male passenger was not released as of Friday.

Three people in other cars were rushed to the hospital as a result of the crash.

Witnesses said the pursuit reached speeds of more than 80 mph, and some said it should have never gone that fast.

"People were put at risk. They did not need to be put at risk like this," said Tim Holmberg, who witnessed the crash.

With several schools and a community center nearby, some have questioned whether law enforcement should have pursued the truck through such a high-traffic area.

Sheriff's officials admitted the decision was difficult, but they had to look at the crime at hand.

"Because we were talking about kidnapping, it puts you in a position [of] if you don't pursue that vehicle, what's going to happen to that victim in that vehicle," Frank said.

Frank said one patrol unit first sped after the truck. After deputies lost sight of the pickup, another patrol car picked up chase. They did call for air support, but it was too far away, and the pursuit continued.

"I think the police did exactly what they needed to do. It's an unfortunate event," said Coronado resident Dave Shaft.

All deputies involved are still on duty, but the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities Friday said Guillen and the passenger may have known each other. Investigators are still trying to determine exactly what took place, if indeed, it was a carjacking.

The pursuit is analyzed by a critical review board, and then the final decision will come down on if all procedures were followed correctly.

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