KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A Wyandotte County Judge sentenced a man who ran from police and killed an innocent bystander during the pursuit, to more than 22 years behind bars on Wednesday.
The family of Graciela Olivas says in time they will forgive Christopher Stewart, 28, for the unspeakable pain he's brought them.
The victim's family says they agreed to a plea deal in this case, because they did not want to endure the pain of a trial, and they say the 62-year-old mother and grandmother would not hate the person who caused her death.
Stewart killed Olivas in February when state troopers say he sped through a stop sign at 34th and Shawnee Drive and crashed into Olivas' car. Stewart was being pursued by police officers, who tried to stop him a few blocks away after observing drug-related suspicious activity.
Stewart has a criminal history as a drug user, and his family says he was high on methamphetamine at the time. Olivas' family told the judge both police officers and suspects need to think twice before engaging in chases that they call a deadly cat and mouse game.
"There are definitely a lot of questions that are unanswered," said Fernando Esquiveo, the victim's nephew. "So we're relieved the criminal proceedings are over with, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions that we hope in time, there needs to be changes in the protocol."
And Stewart's mother agreed, expressing remorse to the Olivas’ following the hearing.
"I know one thing we can do is let these kids know, anybody that thinks about running from the police, it should never be a misdemeanor,” said Jackie Wakefield, Stewart's mother. “It should be a heavy penalty. Something you need to think twice about before you smash on that gas and go. You are going to have a price to pay."
Stewart did speak to the family as he was sentenced and apologized for causing them pain. He told them from the bottom of his heart he was sorry.
The Olivas family says since Graciela's death, there have been four other police pursuits in the metro that killed or injured innocent bystanders.
Judge Robert Burns told Stewart that a month prior to Olivas' death, the court system had drug treatment paid by the state waiting for him, but Stewart didn't show up for his court date. Burns says the decisions Stewart made have resulted in his future behind bars.