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Man charged in Missoula after downtown police chase ends in teen's death

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kemari parks

Kemari D. Parks, 20. 

A man has been arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide after a downtown police chase last week killed a 17-year-old teenager.

Kemari D. Parks, 20, is charged with one count of vehicular homicide while under the influence, one count of criminal endangerment and one count of fleeing from or eluding a peace officer resulting in serious bodily injury or death, all felonies.

A Missoula officer was on patrol near Orange Street and West Broadway around 11:37 p.m. Wednesday evening. While stopped at a traffic light, the officer noticed a white Honda Civic driving at a high speed eastbound on West Broadway — the speed was estimated to be around 60 or 70 mph in a 25 mph zone, according to charging documents filed Friday.

Police attempted to make a traffic stop, but the car made a quick turn onto Higgins Avenue and the officer lost sight of the car. Dispatch received a call a few minutes later reporting a white car driving on Main Street in the wrong direction. The officer believed this was the same car.

Police located the car near Burger King on East Broadway. When police approached, the driver, later identified as Parks, sped away through the parking lot southbound on Jackson Street. Officers observed a second person sitting in the front passenger seat.

Officers continued to pursue the vehicle — which charging documents say was traveling over 60 miles per hour westbound on Front and Madison streets. Parks nearly struck several other cars as the chase continued, driving into oncoming traffic and running through red lights.

The car started to bounce and fishtail and struck a parked car on the north side of the road near Myrtle Street on South Fifth Street West, causing Parks’ car to spin and strike several more cars, the documents said. The passenger side of Parks’ car hit the parked vehicle, causing significant damage.

It eventually came to a rest at the 200 block of South Fifth Street West, between Myrtle and Hazel streets, a residential area. One witness reported Parks’ car was going up to 100 miles per hour.

Parks got out of the car and fled the scene on foot.

Officers caught up to him as he was trying to jump a fence into the backyard of a house. He refused officer commands to get on the ground and continued to approach the officer, who deployed his Taser, which was ineffective, but prompted Parks to sit on the ground with his hands in the air, charging documents said. 

Parks was taken into custody — officers determined he was on felony probation for a criminal endangerment charge. Law enforcement detected alcohol on Parks’ person while they were talking with him.

Police discovered the passenger in Parks' car to have suffered severe injuries in the crash. He was unconscious, bleeding from multiple wounds and was exhibiting “agonal” breathing. He was transported to Providence St. Patrick Hospital, where he died from his injuries early Thursday morning. He was 17.

A bond has not been set yet. If convicted, Parks could face up to 50 years in the Montana State Prison.

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