Wheeling police have released the dash-cam footage of a pedestrian being hit and killed by officer Preston Robertson. It gives the first real look into what happened. In the early morning hours of September 14, 2014, 20-year-old Fredi Morales was crossing a road when he was struck and killed by Officer Preston Robertson.
In a traffic crash reconstruction report completed in February by the Major Crash Assistance Team, investigators determined that the collision was unavoidable because Robertson did not have enough time or distance to react to Morales running across the road. Why didn’t the officer have time to stop? As it turns out, that same report found that Robertson’s SUV was likely going faster than 100 mph just before it hit Morales, killing him instantly.
The dash cam also shows the moments leading up to the crash. Supposedly, Robertson saw a “speeding” SUV traveling in the opposite direction and he made a U-turn to follow the vehicle. However, after completing the U-turn, Robertson came to a complete stop in the road. He stated that he did so to “check the speed of the driver on a radar unit” and “then tried to reach the speeding driver ahead of him.” However, there is no need for a police vehicle to be at a complete stop to use the radar.
During this ‘chase’, Robertson did not follow proper protocol, or any protocol for that matter. He chose not to turn his emergency lights on, nor did he activate his siren. In fact, he didn’t even call into dispatch about the ‘speeding’ vehicle and subsequent chase. It’s extremely hard to believe that a veteran officer of 23 years would not turn on his lights or siren, or even call into dispatch if he was actually ‘chasing’ a suspect. One of the theories being passed around is Robertson was simply performing a 0-60 test, or given the accident report, a 0-100 mph test.
Regardless of what actually occurred, an innocent man is dead and family is left grieving from the grossly incompetent actions of another cop. Robertson’s only punishment was nothing more than a vacation, in the form of ‘administrative leave’ for two months before he was allowed to return to work at the police department.
Morales’ family has sued the village of Wheeling and Robertson as an individual defendant. The suit claims negligence on Robertson’s part and the intentional infliction of emotional distress by the village for failing to ensure that all of Morales’ body parts were removed from the scene following the initial investigation. The suit seeks damages in excess of $100,000. As it turns out, the police left body parts of 20-year-old Fredi Morales at the scene of his death for up to 36 hours – a gruesome discovery made my Morales’ brother.
Wheeling Village Manager Jon Sfondilis briefly responded to the suit, stating, “The allegations contained in the lawsuit filed two days after the accident were without merit.”
How can the lawsuit be without merit? It is a fact the officer operated his police vehicle at incredibly dangerous speeds without the required emergency lights and siren – all of which resulted in the death of a 20-year-old man. Had a civilian killed a pedestrian as a result of speeding and reckless driving, that person would have been charged with vehicular manslaughter or even murder! Badges do not grant extra rights!
At 05:39:03, Officer Robertson makes an abrupt u-turn and begins to accelerate. However, just 11 seconds later at 05:39:24, Officer Robertson makes an abrupt stop in the left lane, then ‘guns’ the vehicle. A visibly marked speed limit sign can be seen on the right, which is marked 35 MPH.
During the time between the abrupt stop, and when Officer Robertson hits the pedestrian, the dash-cam captures what appears to erratic and dangerous driving behavior from the officer. At several points, the officer is moving between the left and right lanes, and for most of the video, is driving in the center of two lanes.
At 05:39:58, the officer once again changes lanes. Two seconds later, at 05:40:00, the officer hits and kills the pedestrian.
Prior to this, the officer was speeding and driving erratically without his lights or siren on.
At 05:40:31, the officer turns on his emergency lights.
At 05:41:02, the officer turns on his microphone.
Contact Information For Wheeling Police:
Commander Richard Benbow, Patrol Division: firstname.lastname@example.org
Commander Joseph Licari, Investigations Division: email@example.com
You can submit a FOIA request by emailing this form to firstname.lastname@example.org
The city uses the following method to determine email addresses: Initial of first name and complete last name. Though Officer Preston Robertson’s email is not listed, his email should be email@example.com