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Questions Surround Louisiana Cop Charged With Deadly NYE Crash That Left Two Teens Dead
The 18th Judicial District Attorney says Addis police officer David Cauthron was in pursuit of a home invasion suspect when he allegedly crashed his cruiser into a vehicle containing three uninvolved high school students, killing Maggie Dunn and Caroline Gill.
A police officer in Louisiana is under arrest after engaging in a high-speed car chase that ended in a deadly crash.
David Cauthron of the Addis Police Department was behind the wheel of a police cruiser on Saturday morning when pursuing a home invasion suspect across multiple Louisiana parishes, according to ABC Baton Rouge affiliate WBRZ-TV. Witnesses say the officer reached speeds of about 86 miles per hour before allegedly barreling through a red light and striking a third vehicle that was not involved in the pursuit.
High school junior Maggie Dunn, 17, and sophomore Caroline Gill, 16, were killed as a result, and a third person — reported to be Dunn’s teenage brother, Liam Dunn — was critically injured.
Tony Clayton, District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District, confirmed with WBRZ-TV reporters that Cauthron is charged with two counts of negligent homicide and one count of negligent injuring.
“That cop has a lot of questions to answer pertaining to his speed and sheer negligence,” Clayton stated. “The public can rest assured, we will follow the facts.”
Saturday’s pursuit began in Baton Rouge after 24-year-old Tyquel Zanders was accused of breaking into his father’s Blackwell Drive residence and stealing the keys to his 2016 Nissan Altima, according to The Advocate.
Zanders allegedly fled in the stolen car and failed to stop for Baton Rouge police. Officials say he blew through multiple red lights before crossing the Mississippi River from East Baton Rouge Parish into West Baton Rouge Parish, heading south toward Brusly and reaching speeds up to 110 mph.
During the chase, witnesses reported seeing Officer Cauthron’s vehicle going through a red light, even though it had reportedly been red for about 20 seconds, according to WBRZ-TV. The cruiser then crashed into the third vehicle on State Highway 1 in Brusly, a few miles south of Baton Rouge, forcing the teenagers’ car to lose control and land in a median.
District Attorney Clayton questioned why Baton Rouge officials gave chase to the suspect, though it was not clear when Cauthron — and possibly other Addis police officers — joined the pursuit.
“If it involves putting human life in danger, stop the damn pursuit,” Clayton told the Advocate. “It’s just not worth the risk.”
After the crash, Zanders allegedly drove the stolen car back into East Baton Rouge Parish and was stopped by officers on I-10 near Dalrymple, according to WBRZ-TV. He is facing charges in Baton Rouge for home invasion, vehicle theft and aggravated flight.
Across the river in West Baton Rouge, he is charged with two counts of manslaughter, according to the Advocate.
“He put the chain of events into play,” Clayton said of Zanders. “He’s responsible for all the reactions to his actions. He’s facing two counts, and if that poor kid doesn’t survive, he’ll face another.”
“As we mourn the tragic deaths of Maggie Dunn and Caroline Gill, please keep their families, friends, and the BHS community in your thoughts and prayers,” the Brusly High School cheerleading team posted Sunday. “Their enthusiasm and bright smiles will be missed more than can be imagined.”
A blood drive has been planned for Liam Dunn, who remains hospitalized.
“For these kids to not have been able to start the New Year is inexcusable, but we’ll follow the facts first,” Clayton stated, according to WBRZ-TV. “I just can’t put my arms around why [Cauthron] was driving at that rate of speed in pursuit of this vehicle. This officer is facing some serious issues.”
On Sunday, the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office issued a warrant, leading to Cauthron’s Sunday evening arrest.
It was unclear what his current position is with the Addis Police Department, though they said in a statement that they were “deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred.”
Cauthron reportedly joined the department in February 2022 and was previously employed with the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office, according to WBRZ-TV.
He was booked into the West Baton Rouge Parish Detention Center on Sunday evening and is reportedly being held on $100,000 bond. A legal representative was not listed on his behalf in jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com.