Laws Should Change For High-Speed Chase



Last August, I sat on a porch swing with my nephew and listened as he talked about what he wanted out of life. They were simple things really, finishing college, finding a girl, getting a job, getting married, having children. Simple things that everyone wants.

I found myself envying his youth and the promises that life held in store for him. Little did I suspect that fate had something very different in store for my quiet, ever-smiling nephew. How could I possibly have known that within six weeks of that day he would be killed by the very people who were hired to serve and protect?

His name is Evan Shelley and he was ripped from our lives Sept. 25 at 1:55 a.m. at the corner of Country Club and University Drives in Mesa by Department of Public Safety officer Christopher Valdez.

Officer Valdez's lights and siren were off when he hit Evan's car going 62 mph in a 40 mph zone. I understand that he was also in the left hand turn lane and went straight across the intersection where he hit our beloved Evan.

It is our hope that Evan did not see it coming and did not feel the terror knowing would warrant.

At that moment everything changed for everyone involved.

Everything that Evan had ever been or ever hoped to be ended in that split second. No more dreams. No graduating from college, no girlfriend, no marriage, and no grandchildren for my sister to hold as she grows older.

My sister has severe bouts of depression as every mother who loses a child does. Somedays she copes better than others, but it is always with her and is sometimes nearly unbearable.

Her daughter, Erica, is having a hard time grasping why this horrible thing happened, and I'm sure Leon Shelley, Evan's father, is suffering as well. I know the rest of us feel a tremendous loss and always will.

Mr. Valdez's attorney, Kent Somadina, stated that he thought Valdez made a bad call when questioned whether Valdez violated the order to end the chase. But Mr. Somadina asked if his client deserved to be in prison for 10 years and Somandina answered "no." I wonder how he would feel if it were his child that had been killed?

Mr. Somadina described his client as remorseful and said that he is being sufficiently punished by losing his career because no one convicted of a felony can serve as a police officer. Isn't that sad? He took a life and Mr. Valdez might lose his career.

At the first hearing Mr. Valdez left the building and made eye contact with my sister, knowing that he had killed her son. Yet he showed no remorse, no asking of forgiveness, no shame.

Now, my sister has learned at a later-than-proper date that they are planning on striking a plea bargain, and that if they can sweep this all under the rug Mr. Valdez will get away with nothing more than a slap on the hand. What an injustice this would be. What an affront to everything good and right about our judicial system.

Nearly one-third of accidental deaths to innocent bystanders are caused by high speed chases. This is not acceptable and the law should change so that pursuits are made only when lives are endangered.

Letters of support for the Shelley family would be most appreciated. Please send to Barbara Broderick, Superior Court of Arizona Probation Department and Judge John Gaylord, Courthouse Room 303, 222 E. Javelina, Mesa, Arizona 85210-6234.

Bobbie Ragan, Aunt of Evan Shelley

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