News choppers collide - police chase suspect responsible?

Reading this story about the collision of two rival news helicopters over Phoenix as they were observing a police chase, I noticed this:

“The police chief said the suspect will likely face criminal charges for the deaths in the helicopter crash.
“I think he will be held responsible for any of the deaths from this tragedy,” Harris said.”

I’m aware that one can be charged with damage, injuries, or deaths resulting from the commission of a crime, but is there really precedent to charge someone with causing the deaths in a case like this? These weren’t police vehicles, and I assume that the collision was the fault of one or both of the pilots. (Certainly not of the suspect on the ground, who I doubt was even aware of their presence.)

Can they really do that, and what are the chances it would stick?

It seems like a very long stretch to me. I believe that in some places there have been agreements between local police and TV news choppers to establish a comm. link, so if that was the case, there might be some grounds for establishing cause and effect, but I don’t think that’s the case here.
I seem to remember a news chopper crash in Phoenix about 25 years back, anyone else recall that?

Proximate Cause Felony Murder Theory might apply

I will loose so much faith in our justice system if he gets charged with this. I mean he broke the law and he deserves to get punished on the crimes he committed. Our media is way to aggressive. It’s pilot error and nothing more.

For the felony murder rule to apply, the killing must be a foreseeable incident to the commission of the underlying felony. If two cars crashed and killed the occupants, then it might work. But I’m pretty sure the risk of two helicopter colliding is out of the realm of foreseeable results of a car chase.

Sorry, I know this is GQ, but I just have to say that is unbelievably stupid. I’m sorry that it happened, but give me a break. That makes about as much sense as if someone ran over to tell his neighbor that there’s a cool car chase on T.V., tripped, split his head open, and died, and the truck driver got a murder charge for that.

Well, to me this sounds exactly like any other scenario where any other onlooker/rubbernecker gets killed doing something unsafe trying to get a better view while observing a crime in progress. So if it actually sticks I’m going to be very sad. Anybody getting involved in a crime on either side of the law is doing so at great risk, and while direct actions should be prosecuted, I feel indirect and unforeseen events that could befall either side should not.

Basically, you point a gun at a storekeep and he keels over and dies of a heart attack --> can be felony murder.

The cops accidentally shoot and kill one of the hostages instead of the hostage taker --> should not be felony murder.

A person runs from the cops and runs an old lady off the road --> can be felony murder. (Edit: For the hostage taker. )

A person runs from the cops, they set up a car barricade, the suspect plows through it killing a bystanding officer --> Grey area but in my opinion no extra charges should be filed.

A person runs from the cops and someone dies from excitement while watching live coverage on TV --> should not be felony murder.

A person runs from the cops and news helicopters trying to get a better view collide with each other --> You’ve gotta be kidding me. :dubious:

It’s not too unusual for news helicopters to crash but I wonder if you are thinking about the very famous crash of Francis Gary Powers 30 years ago. That was in LA, I believe.

There is little chance the perp here is criminally prosecutable for the crash of the news choppers. If he has any money someone will try to hold him financially liable and that’s always a crapshoot.

About six months ago a semi driver was cleared of the criminal charges filed against him for murder in Wisconsin. A couple years back he had an accident. Ten minutes later an inattentive bus driver crashed while not paying attention and killed some kids. The courts ruled rightly it was not the trucker’s fault , but the bus driver’s.

Sad to say, news helicopter personnel know they are doing a very dangerous job. The only people that are directly responsible for this fiasco are the pilots, who are both dead. I don’t think there’s anyone who could be prosecuted.

If this were a police copter tracking his movement, yes I can see that. A news helicopter only after TV ratings- hell no.

Just when you think the US judicial system can’t get any more illogical, along comes cases like this.

So, you bet your sweet bippy they’ll prosecute him and with any “luck” will be able to find a group of idiot jurors that will convict him.

Agreed. Further, the news helocopters didn’t have a duty to pursue. As much as it’s their job, they’re also responsible to not endanger others, or themselves in the daily pursuit of their jobs, and thus can’t claim that the had no choice but to close in. Now, if it were two police helocopters, that’s probably in-bounds.

In this case, not the judicial system, but the lawmakers themselves…

From your cite:

"Missouri law allows a felony murder charge when an officer is killed while responding to aid in a felony arrest. "

Huh? Someone purposefully plows through a police barricade killing an officer and you don’t think extra charges should be filed? By extra, I’m assuming you mean more than running from the cops, plowing through a barricade, and whatever reason he ran for. How can you think he shouldn’t be charged for killing someone in such a manner?

I’m not going to hunt up a cite right now but I read it and heard it on the news yesterday.

July 5, 1991 a newsradio helicopter pilot died in Phoenix. He apparently was startled when a bottlerocket went up right next to the chopper, lost control and crashed.

Did you actually read the OP?

The post just above yours said the law provides for extra punishment for, while committing a crime, the killing of a police officer who was responding to the crime.

Killing a police officer who just happened to be there doesn’t seem to apply to that “extra punishment” clause — although, in my view, it would still qualify as ordinary vehicular manslaughter.

Reading this topic to my roomate, he feels I should add here that Francis Gary Powers, apprently, wasn’t in a helicopter but a U2 spy plane and was shot down over the Soviet Union in the 1960s?

I have no idea if he’s correct on this or not but he seems sure of himself and asked that I mention it. If he’s wrong, though, please correct. :slight_smile:

Powers was shot down in a U-2 in 1960.

He was killed in a helicopter crash while flying for KNBC (Los Angeles) in 1977.