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Innocent bystanders often caught in the middle of metro police chases

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was almost 5 p.m. Lisa Wendell was on her way home from work. She just pulled into a major intersection at Blue Parkway and Cleveland when the accident happened.

“They hit me at such a high rate of speed that it spun my car all the way around,” Wendell said.

She’s never been the same since the accident more than a year ago.

“The headaches just kept getting worse and worse,” said Wendell, whose speech and memory were also affected.

Wendell, who now needs a cane to walk, had to quit her job as a kindergarten teacher – work she had cherished for 35 years.

Attorney James Roswold said Wendell is the victim of a police chase. Roswold said more than half the people injured in high-speed pursuits are innocent bystanders.

The day of Wendell’s accident, KCMO police were pursuing Marcellas Nunley who was wanted for multiple drug violations.

KC police said they had called off the chase and were no longer pursuing Nunley when he crashed into Wendell’s car.

But Wendells attorney blames the chase, saying the man who hit her would have had no need to drive recklessly through the city if police had not been pursuing him.

It’s estimated that every year more than 300 people are killed in police chases nationwide. That number includes bad guys, police and bystanders. And that doesn’t begin to count the thousands of people who are injured every year by police pursuits.

“You don't have to be anti-police to have a negative opinion on a fairly significant percentage of these high-speed chase,” Roswold said.

Research has shown that often have no impact on the crime rate.

Experts say police almost always know who they are chasing, meaning the bad guy, could always be arrested later at home or work. In addition, other tools exist allowing police to electronically tag a speeding car, allowing them to track once its stopped.

Although some departments use those tools and have greatly curtailed high-speed chases, others continue to chase for even minor offenses – such as a suspended license – putting the public at risk.

Monday night on FOX4 News at 10 p.m., Problem Solvers looks at two metro department that regularly conduct high-speed chases.

FOX4's Linda Wagar talks to experts on both sides of the issue, including a police chief who defends the practice, blaming any dangers to the community on the bad guy being chased --not the police.