Parents of victim in wrong way crash, Cleveland city council members call on Parma police to review pursuit policy

Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 11:24 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Three people have died in the past three days after Parma police chases ended in deadly crashes in Cleveland.

On Monday, 19 News spoke with the parents of one young woman who is recovering in the hospital after her car was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver trying to escape police.

Several members of the Cleveland city council believe they need to have a conversation with Parma city leaders and other nearby suburbs to come up with ways to work together to prevent future tragedies.

19-year-old Esenje Goodman is lucky to be alive.

“I’m like, ‘Is my daughter, okay?’ she just said, ‘No. Her car was on fire, we had to pull her out and she said she’s alert, she’s talking, she gave me your phone number and everything,’ and then the EMT got on the phone and said ‘There’s no life-threatening injuries, so we’re gonna take her to Metro, the trauma center,’” recalled Goodman’s emotional mother, Temeka Houston.

The Baldwin Wallace junior’s parents, Temeka & Kelvin Houston are still tearing up when they think back to Saturday night.

“It’s gonna be a long road,” said Temeka. “She has flashbacks. She thought she was gonna die. That’s what she full-out told me, I thought I was gonna die.”

They said their daughter was headed to the store when a wrong-way driver crashed into her car on the Jennings Freeway.

Video from ODOT shows the car drive into oncoming traffic just past the Denison exit—hitting Goodman’s car head-on.

The two people in the wrong-way car died. So did Goodman’s beloved dog, 11-year-old CC.

“Esenje is going through multiple surgeries,” Temeka said. “Her face, her jaw is fractured. Her jaw has to be wired shut. She has a fracture in her lower back. Both her ankles are broken, her ribs are broken, face lacerations, ribs, teeth are broken. She’s pretty beat up.”

Parma police had been chasing that car before the crash but said they cut it off before the driver got on the highway the wrong way.

Police said they were chasing the driver because he was involved in a hit-and-run crash.

“I feel infuriated because my daughter is a junior at Baldwin Wallace,” Temeka said. “She has her life together. I feel like lives have been lost, it just doesn’t make sense for a property crime. It doesn’t make sense to chase someone through the streets like they have murdered somebody, or they kidnapped someone. It’s not fair. Too many lives are being affected.”

Just two days before that, another Parma police chase also ended in a deadly crash in Cleveland.

This time police say they were chasing a man who was driving close to 100 mph. Police said they lost sight of the speeding car before it crashed on Woburn Avenue.

The 30-year-old driver died, and a 40-year-old woman was hurt.

Parma police said none of the cars involved in either crash was stolen.

“You never think that this gonna happen to you and for Parma, I don’t know if they were out of their district, but the results of the chase and you see it, it’s like it’s not worth it,” said Goodman’s stepfather, Kelvin Houston. “It’s not worth it to chase somebody cause no matter what they’re thinking, if they’re doing something criminally, they’re thinking criminally about trying to get away.”

Cleveland City Council wants Parma to review its chase policy too.

When deciding whether to pursue a criminal, Parma police officers are told to consider the seriousness of the offense, if they could identify the offender at a later time, traffic and road conditions, and other reckless the offender is driving.

On the other hand, Cleveland police can also pursue a driver if they’ve committed a violent felony, they’re driving under the influence, or the immediate danger of the pursuit is less than the danger to the public if the suspect remains at large.

Cleveland city council members are calling for a meeting with Parma and other suburbs to discuss their chase policy.

Councilman Kris Harsh said the meeting needs to happen right away.

“I’m not entirely convinced that Parma did anything wrong, to be honest, but I do think we need to have a conversation about what warrants a chase and when one is called off,” said Harsh. “I know that most of the people that flee Parma police flee into Cleveland, I totally understand that, and I want good police law enforcement. I think it’s a tough question though when people are driving erratically or breaking the law, that’s when we want police to step in to make things safe.”

Some council members have suggested having Cleveland police helicopters available on demand to limit pursuits.

Goodman’s parents told 19 News their daughter is tough and they know she’ll make a full recovery, but she has several surgeries ahead of her including one later this week.