Woman killed after Marietta police conduct alleged chase against department policy
Atlanta News First uncovered evidence a police officer possibly broke department rules in a police pursuit that ended an innocent woman’s life. And it’s not the only time the officer has been accused of not following pursuit policies.
Marietta, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Paloma Baba and Veronica Silva were looking forward to sharing dinner with their families when they were on their way home from work December 3, 2021. They never made it.
A Ford F-150, driven by Ivan Garcia hit their SUV at the intersection of Terrell Mill Road and I-75 in Cobb County. The truck was traveling about 80 miles per hour when it crashed into the women’s vehicle. Garcia was being pursued by Marietta Police Officer Wesley Scott.
The incident left Baba with multiple broke bones. Silva, 54, did not survive.
“It’s destroyed our family,” said Expedito Silva, Veronica Silva’s husband.
Silva and Baba, both originally from Brazil, worked together cleaning homes. Baba was on her way to pick up her son when the crash happened.
Why did Garcia flee from police? According to the incident report, Scott attempted to pull Garcia over because his truck’s license plate was covered by a brown tarp.
In a deposition recorded in March 2023, Garcia said he took off because he didn’t have a driver’s license. Garcia, who has lived in the United States for 30 years, claimed he was only two weeks away from getting his green card. “I figured it would affect my immigration status,” he said.
Scott didn’t know any of that, nor did it matter. It’s against the department’s policy to engage in pursuits unless the officer has reasonable suspicion the person they’re chasing was involved a violent crime, like murder, rape or armed robbery.
According to the officer’s report, he stopped the pursuit after Garcia “accelerated at a high rate of speed.” An Atlanta News First Investigation uncovered video that may prove otherwise. It’s not from the police cruiser’s dash camera. Maintenance records show it wasn’t recording that day.
The video is from a security camera installed at an apartment complex pointed toward Terrell Mill Road. It captures Garcia flying through an intersection. The truck’s data recorder shows he was driving 83 miles per hour, about twice the speed limit.
The video also shows Scott’s patrol car shortly behind Garcia with his cruiser’s blue lights flashing, nearly running a red light to keep up. The video indicates the officer did not stop his pursuit where he claims he did, in his report.
The Silva’s family attorney, Tim Gardner, believes this proves the officer wasn’t telling the truth. “I know that this officer had several opportunities to discontinue this chase, but yet he continued to pursue Mr. Garcia,” said Gardner.
Gardner believes Scott chased Garcia right up until the moment he hit Veronica Silva’s SUV. “He may not have been going at the same rate of speed of Mr. Garcia, but that doesn’t mean that he was not pursuing him,” Gardner said. “He still had his light activated.”
Seven days after the crash, a supervisor told Scott he failed to follow department policy that requires officers to make sure their video camera systems are working before each shift.
“This policy specifies that it is the individual officer’s responsibility to ensure that the dash-camera system, and body-worn camera system, is fully functional before each shift,” Sergeant Jayson Duncan told Scott on December 12, 2021.
Less than a year later, Scott was accused of not following the department’s pursuit policy. After an October 2022 chase, the department suspended Scott for two days after he failed to stop a pursuit involving a nonviolent offense. “After communicating on the radio you were discontinuing the pursuit, you continued to pursue,” wrote his supervisors in its report.
Atlanta News First sent the 2021 apartment security video to Marietta Police Marty Chief Ferrell. He declined interview requests for this story, but sent a response through an agency spokesperson.
“[Chief Ferrell] asked me to extend his gratitude for sharing the video and information,” said Chuck McPhilamy, the department’s public information officer, in a May 3, 2023, email. “He asked that I let you know he is personally reviewing the information to verify all proper steps were taken.”
This past March, Garcia pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.
It’s unclear if Scott’s actions that day were ever investigated. When officers are involved in police pursuits, the agency typically conducts a review to make sure they followed department protocol. In this case, Scott simply said he didn’t pursue Garcia, and it appears, his supervisors believed him. Scott has not faced any punishment.
Silva’s family believes the evidence is clear and they want the officer held accountable. “My mother’s dead and they’re trying to wipe their hands of any blame,” said her son, Felipe Silva. “An innocent person is dead.”
If there’s something you would like Atlanta News First Investigative Reporter Andy Pierrotti to look into, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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