The 17-year-old who allegedly led West Sacramento police on a chase Tuesday night that ended in a pedestrian being fatally run over by a speeding police cruiser will face felony vehicle theft charges in juvenile court, but will not be charged in the death.
His first court appearance is set for today, said Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven.
The teen had been held in Yolo County juvenile custody on suspicion of auto theft and murder Thursday, two days after an officer who joined the chase slammed into Brandon Louis Nickolas, 31, of West Sacramento.
Witnesses say Nickolas walked onto West Capitol Avenue near Pine Street and was killed instantly after being hit by the police car.
The teen, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was later arrested after crashing the car he was driving into a parked car in the 1900 block of Maryland Avenue in West Sacramento. The owner of the parked car chased down the teen and subdued him until officers arrived, authorities said.
On Thursday, Yolo County District Attorney's officials filed five counts: vehicle theft, felony possession of stolen property, and misdemeanor allegations of evading a police officer, resisting arrest and driving without a license.
Raven said the District Attorney's Office did not pursue a murder filing because they would have to meet "a different standard of proof" than the original booking in prosecuting the case.
Legal experts who spoke to The Bee said Tuesday's incident would likely not be a standard felony murder case.
In such cases, prosecutors could file murder allegations against someone who committed a felony that led to a death, but the allegation is usually applied when the defendant is physically responsible for the death.
The West Sacramento police officer involved in the fatal collision a six-year department veteran is on paid administrative leave pending an internal review and investigation by California Highway Patrol.
Neighbors who were jarred by the loud collision while watching television or by the gruesome scene that played out before their eyes Tuesday night described a horrific collision on a dark West Capitol Avenue.
"It was definitely bad. I was watching a movie when I heard the 'bang,' " Adam Elder, who lives on West Capitol and Pine, said outside his apartment Wednesday. "I decided to come out here, but I did not want to see it."
Veronica Hernandez was waiting for her boyfriend outside a market at West Capitol and Pine when she saw Nickolas walk onto West Capitol Avenue. "I said, 'This guy's going to get hit.' It's sad. When he got hit, I just saw him flying," Hernandez said Wednesday. "It was horrible."
On the street, in the station house and in the courtroom, police pursuits have long been the subject of scrutiny.
Advocates have called to end or curtail police pursuits, departments are reviewing their chase policies, and the issue has even been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A 2007 high court ruling permitted police to ram a fleeing suspect's car to end a high-speed chase.
But the toll of police pursuits has been high.
In California, 470 people were killed in 404 crashes from 2000 to 2010, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. Nationally, the data showed nearly 4,000 fatalities were reported during the decade in some 3,400 crashes involving police pursuits.