A national pursuit-safety group showed its support for the mother of a 17-year-old boy who was killed by a man attempting to flee from police, by appearing at the felon's sentencing hearing to urge no reduction in sentence.
Candy Priano, executive director of Voices Insisting on Pursuit Safety, joined Cheryl Cooper in the courtroom on July 28.
Wilfredo Pujols, Jr. pleaded guilty to four felony counts — second-degree murder, resisting arrest, and two hit and runs — related to the 2007 incident and was sentenced to 15 years on prison on April 23, 2009.
Pujols appeared in court on July 28 to have his guilty plea and 15-year sentence thrown out.
"These deaths are not accidents," Priano said. "Pujols made a decision to flee from the police. These tragedies repeat themselves throughout the United States, leaving behind hundreds of families, each year, whose lives are shattered."
On Nov. 8, 2007, Christopher Cooper was riding his bicycle home and legally crossing the street when Pujols, traveling in excess of 80 mph while fleeing from Independence (Mo.) Police officers, struck and killed the boy. Police were pursuing Pujols, who was a suspect in an assault.
"Justice is an empty word," Cheryl Cooper said prior to the hearing. "Christopher was a loving son and cared about other people. He had often talked about becoming a firefighter. The court's ability to hold people accountable is the only form of justice we have. We expect criminals to be held accountable for their choices."
The hearing was on July 28 at the Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence.
"I receive endless support from the people of Pursuit Safety," said Cheryl Cooper. "This public safety issue is a national problem. Families whose loved ones have died innocently during police chases and police response calls are no longer alone. Candy has been there for me after Christopher was killed. Through her own loss, she has reached out to others to provide much needed guidance and direction. I do not know what I would have done without her kindness and caring."
Voices Insisting on Pursuit Safety is a national nonprofit organization that reaches out to the families of victims impacted by vehicular police pursuits and response calls.