The Boulder County District Attorney on Tuesday announced that a state trooper will not be charged in connection with the April car chase that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old Longmont driver.
Colorado State Patrol troopers were pursuing a reportedly stolen vehicle on April 23 when the vehicle crashed into a tree following the trooper’s attempts to stop the vehicle. Driver Mason Farnsworth, 16, died in the crash. Because the crash involved state patrol troopers, the Boulder County Critical Incident Team — which is called when law enforcement is involved in a death — was tasked with investigating.
DA Michael Dougherty determined that no charges will be filed against Colorado State Patrol Trooper Tim Kridel, who struck Farnsworth’s car with his own car in an attempt to end the chase.
“It is clear from all the evidence in this investigation that the intended consequence of the (tactical vehicle intervention) was to end the pursuit by forcing the stolen car to come to a stop in the roadway rather than engaging in a high-speed chase in a residential area of Longmont,” a news release from the district attorney’s office says.
The attempted stop initiated by Kridel caused Farnsworth’s car to spin counterclockwise. In an effort to overcorrect, Farnsworth’s accelerated out of the spin, which caused the car to slide across the road and the driver’s side of the car to collide with a tree.
“At the time Trooper Kridel initiated a tactical vehicle intervention on the stolen car driven by Mason Farnsworth, it was reasonable for Trooper Kridel to believe that weapons were in the stolen car and that the use of physical force was necessary to effectuate the stop and arrest of the driver,” Dougherty wrote in a decision letter to state patrol officials.
Around 7:20 that morning, Kridel was conducting routine patrol when he saw a white Saturn in the parking lot of the Walmart at Main Street and Colo. 66.
According to the letter, Kridel ran the license plate number of the car Farnsworth was driving because “the trooper knew from his prior experience that this type of Saturn sedan is a common target of thefts in Adams County, where he had previously been assigned.” The license plate was registered to the Saturn, which was listed as stolen, and the computer check noted there were weapons in it when it was stolen.
After losing sight of the Saturn, Kridel tracked the Saturn to the King Soopers at 2255 Main St., where Farnsworth had gone inside. From there, Kridel started following Farnsworth, who turned out of the parking lot and westbound on 21st Avenue.
Kridel and another trooper in the area followed Farnsworth along 21st Avenue to Francis Street, where the traffic light was red. Farnsworth then ran the red light, turning southbound onto Francis Street. Kridel followed Farnsworth in an attempt to conduct a traffic stop. Farnsworth then accelerated, with the two troopers behind him, heading into a residential neighborhood.
With no other vehicles on the road and no observed pedestrians, Kridel executed the tactical vehicle intervention instead of risking a pursuit through the neighborhood, according to the letter. Kridel used the front passenger side of his patrol vehicle to make contact with the rear driver’s side of the Saturn, causing it to spin before Farnsworth over-corrected and slid into the tree.
According to the report, Farnsworth was driving at 38 to 40 mph before being struck by the trooper.
“Trooper Kridel attempted to maintain contact between the two vehicles and cause the stolen vehicle to spin 180 degrees during the TVI. However, the trooper lost contact with the Saturn during the maneuver, as Mr. Farnsworth continued to engage the accelerator,” the letter stated. Farnsworth continued to accelerate, ultimately sliding off the road and then crashed into a tree “at the worst possible angle,” traveling between 19 and 24 mph.
Farnsworth’s cause of death was determined to be blunt force head trauma as a result of the motor vehicle crash. The manner of death was an accident.
Dougherty and members of of the district attorney staff will host a virtual meeting at 3:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the case. Questions can be submitted in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The meeting can be joined at tinyurl.com/yavxk5ge or by calling 720-400-7859, conference ID 13798519#.