Officer David Cauthron charged after Maggie Dunn, Caroline Gill died in chase

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A Louisiana police officer has been charged with negligent homicide for his role in a car crash that killed two teenage girls who were not the focus of the high-speed chase.

David Cauthron, an Addis, La., police department officer, was among Baton Rouge-area law enforcement officers pursuing a man accused of stealing his father’s car on Saturday, said 18th Judicial District Attorney Tony Clayton at The Washington Post. As Cauthron followed the suspect through a red light at speeds approaching 90 mph, the officer did not brake before crashing into a car with three young drivers on Louisiana Highway 1, Clayton said.

Maggie Dunn, 17, and Caroline Gill, 16, of Brusly, Louisiana, were pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. Liam Dunn, Maggie’s brother and a 20-year-old student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was in critical condition Tuesday morning, according to Baton Rouge-based station WBRZ.

Cauthron, 42, was arrested Sunday and authorities charged him with two counts of negligent homicide and one count of negligent injury, Clayton said.

“This cop was grossly negligent,” Clayton told the Post on Tuesday. “The law doesn’t give you the power to run a red light and endanger the lives of others. You have to pull over and let those other cars go.

Each count of negligent homicide could carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000, depending on Louisiana law. If the officer is convicted of negligent injury, he could serve a maximum sentence of six months in prison and/or pay a fine of up to $1,000.

Addis Police Chief Richard “Ricky” Anderson did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. Cauthron’s employment status with the Addis Police Department remains unclear, but Clayton told WBRZ that Anderson told him the officer had been placed on administrative leave. We don’t know if Cauthron has an attorney.

The chain of events leading up to the fatal crash began Saturday in Baton Rouge, when 24-year-old Tyquel Zanders allegedly entered his family’s home and stole a 2016 Nissan Altima, according to the attorney.

“He had walked into his parents’ house, pushed his dad, and taken the car,” Clayton told the Post.

Police began chasing him in East Baton Rouge after Zanders failed to do so stopping and running red lights in a chase that reached speeds of up to 110 mph, according to the district attorney’s office. Once the chase crossed the Mississippi River bridge, it became the jurisdiction of West Baton Rouge authorities, Clayton said.

Cauthron, who joined the Addis Police Department in February, after a stint at the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office, was among the officers in the area to respond to calls for reinforcements in their pursuit of Zanders. Addis, less than 10 miles southwest of Baton Rouge, is a municipality with about 7,100 people, according to a 2021 Census Bureau estimate.

As Cauthron sped after Zanders, his police cruiser drove through an intersection on Louisiana Highway 1 that had been on a red light for about 20 seconds, WBRZ reported. Six or seven cars were driving through the intersection when Cauthron’s police car burst in to chase Zanders, Clayton told the Post.

When the police car struck the vehicle occupied by the girls and Dunn’s brother, the force of the crash throttled the car to the freeway median. Neither the Dunns nor Gills, who were on their way to a store, were involved in the alleged robbery that sparked the police pursuit, charging documents say.

After investigators arrived at the scene, they reviewed footage at the intersection and footage from Cauthron’s cruiser dash cam, Clayton said. Louisiana law states that although officers are allowed to speed and run red lights when pursuing a suspect, police must slow down or stop to ensure they do not endanger life. from others.

Cauthron was being held on $100,000 bail on Tuesday. Clayton told the Post he plans to convene a grand jury in the Cauthron case by the end of the month.

While the district attorney said he agreed with the decision to arrest the Addis officer, he questioned why Baton Rouge police chased Zanders in the first place.

“I can’t think of any circumstance where cops are going 100 miles an hour in a small town in the United States to chase a suspect,” he told the Post. “[Zanders] was going to run out of gas or money. We just had to wait for him to come back. »

The police detained Zanders after his car stalled, according to the district attorney’s office. He faces charges of home invasion, theft of vehicle and aggravated theft, according to the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, as well as two counts of manslaughter for the deaths of Maggie Dunn and Gil. . Each count of manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, according to state attorneys. It’s unclear if Zanders has an attorney.

The New Year’s Eve tragedy has rocked the small community of Brusly in recent days. Classmates and teachers remembered Dunn, a junior, and Gill, a sophomore, as best friends, honor students and cheerleaders at Brusly High School. Principal Walt Lemoine described the losses as “far reaching in our school community”, noting that Dunn’s mother and sister work at the school and that Gill has siblings in the school system.

“They were exactly what you would want your daughter to be,” Lemoine told the Post. “They just touched so many people. This tragedy just seems to hit in a way unlike anything we’ve ever had.

The cheerleading squad posted a photo of the girls on Facebook and urged people to “share any memories or photos you have of Maggie and Caroline and how they made you smile.”

“Their enthusiasm and bright smiles will be missed more than anyone can imagine,” the post read.

The school held a candlelight vigil for the girls on Monday evening before returning to class on Tuesday morning. Lemoine estimated that 500 people showed up to remember the victims and pray for Liam Dunn’s recovery.

Jennifer Perkins, the high school cheerleading coach, told Baton Rouge-based WAFB how Maggie Dunn and Gill would be on TikTok, just having fun with each other, during practice. The coach then said she was devastated to know she would never see her ‘wonderful daughters’ smiles again.

“It’s just a nightmare that you haven’t woken up from,” Perkins told the TV station. “It feels unreal every day, like it couldn’t happen here.”

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