NPD lieutenant: Policy not followed in wreck

Published 12:11 am Friday, February 6, 2015

By Sarah Cook

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ The Natchez Police Department met with Mississippi Highway Patrol investigators Thursday to review data from a Jan. 29 collision involving a Natchez Police patrol car and a green Honda Accord.

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The collision occurred at approximately 7:52 a.m. at the intersection of Franklin and Commerce Streets. No one was seriously injured in the crash.

During the time of the collision, Natchez Police Officer Elvis Prater was pursuing a white truck that was speeding through the downtown area. The truck got away after Prater, who was traveling at a speed of 40 mph, collided with the green Honda Accord. The speed limit for downtown Natchez is 25 mph.

The impact spun the victim’s car around 180 degrees before the driver, who was female and traveling with a child, came to a stop. During the time of the collision, the patrol car’s blue lights were on but no siren was signaled.

Both vehicles were heavily damaged in the collision.

Lt. Craig Godbold of the Natchez Police Department said if Prater had turned his siren on, the collision might have been prevented.

“There are buildings on all four corners (of the intersection) and you can’t actually see past the corners,” said Godbold, noting that the driver of the Honda Accord had a green light while driving through the intersection. “If Prater’s siren would have been on, the driver would have heard the patrol car approaching.”

The driver and child were not injured in the impact, but were sent to Natchez Regional Medical Center for precaution, as was Prater.

“It is rare that officers are involved in a chase — and it’s even more rare for an accident to happen,” Godbold said.  “However, officer Prater did fail to turn on his sirens, which is an element of our pursuit policy.”

Godbold said NPD officials would handle disciplinary actions against Prater internally and would not disclose what those would entail.

According to witnesses, the driver of the white truck was a teenager.

“It could have been a student late for school — there’s no telling,” Godbold said. “Had there not been a speeding violator to begin with, we wouldn’t have had this problem.”