Audio sheds light on deadly Hammond police chase, crash

HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- Audio recordings shed new light on a police chase that ended in a crash that killed a 13-year-old girl and critically injured her grandmother in Hammond, Ind.

The records call into question whether the chase should have been called off.

It began with a call about someone stealing beer from an East Chicago, Ind., grocery store.

"The manager is attempting to stop the female from leaving," the dispatcher said.

East Chicago police said Jessica Pichon jumped in an SUV driven by Donnell Howard, who police said zoomed out of the parking lot and nearly hit an officer.

"Heading southbound on Indianapolis. Almost just hit a car," an officer says on the tape.

Minutes later the pursuit ended in disaster at an intersection in Hammond. Before the crash, officers described Howard weaving through traffic and cutting through alleys and parking lots. A man is heard saying the chase should end, but an officer objects.

Man: If this is just for the stolen beer, then terminate.
Officer: Negative, Central, advise they also tried to run 80 over.

Moments later there's impact. Cell phone video shows Howard running from the crash.

In the other vehicle, 13-year-old Juliana Chambers is dead. Her grandmother, who was behind the wheel, was critically injured.

"There's an unconscious female in one of the vehicles, and extraction will be needed," the dispatcher said.

It appears East Chicago police initiated and led the pursuit and were assisted by Hammond police. Both departments have ordered a review of what happened.
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