Detroit's top cop denies family's claim that deadly crash involved police chase

Posted at 6:33 PM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 18:33:18-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — "They're not crash dummies. They didn't want to lose their life," said Toya McWilliams about the fiery crash that claimed the life of her 22-year-old nephew Jalen McWilliams.

The Detroit father was killed just before 10 a.m. Saturday when the Dodge Durango he was a passenger in slammed into a tree at a high rate of speed Woodhall Street near Chandler Park Drive on Detroit's east side.

Jalen McWilliams' family said the Durango was being chased by Detroit police. Now, the family said they are working to prove it.

"I don't see how police can get on the news and say they weren't chasing them. Why would they be going 60 miles an hour at 10 o'clock in the morning, It doesn't make sense," Toya McWilliams told 7 Action News.

On Wednesday, Detroit Police Department Chief James White commended the six officers he says were nearby at the time of the crash and able to rescue three of the four occupants.

Several of the officers sustained minor injuries during the rescue.

"I reviewed the video personally. There was no pursuit," White said. "This car flying through the neighborhoods, lost control and hit a tree."

The chief did say that members of Internal Affairs and Force Investigations did their own review because officers were so close to the crash when it happened.

Police said the officers spotted a speeding vehicle and by the time they turned around to go look for it, it had already crashed.

On a nearby surveillance video, you can hear the officers pounding on the windows of the vehicles, trying to get the people inside out to safety as fire quickly engulfed the vehicle.

"The officers exhibited incredible bravery, pulling those three victims out of the vehicle," White said.

Police told reporters that the driver of the Durango told them that he didn't think he was being chased and only lost control and crashed because he was trying to avoid another car.

Toya McWilliams said she doesn't know who was driving the Durango. She said all she knows is that it wasn't her nephew.

McWilliams said, "I thought there was a no-chase law here. But they need to get their license plates and catch them on another day."