Thursday, December 02, 2010

San Antonio officer sentenced to 15 years for police traffic death

I'm not sure I've ever seen an instance where a police officer was held criminally liable as a result of injuries sustained while speeding on the way to a call, but a jury yesterday handed down a 15-year sentence to former San Antonio PD officer David Seaton for killing a fellow officer in an accident under exactly those circumstances. Reports the Express-News, jurors:
decided that Seaton's patrol car was used as a “deadly weapon” the evening of Nov. 28, 2008, when authorities say he sped to a low-priority shoplifting call at about 100 mph, running a red light at Potranco Road and Hunt Lane without overhead lights or a siren.

Because of the finding, he will have to serve at least half of the 15-year manslaughter sentence before he's eligible for parole.
Remarkable: I've seen findings that a vehicle is a deadly weapon when police claim a suspect tried to run them over, but I've never seen that designation applied to a cop who killed someone in a traffic accident on the way to a call.

Earlier this year, the Express-News' John Tedesco had an excellent feature on police pursuits in San Antonio, analyzing an internal database, finding that 40% of police chases resulted in accidents and 20% in injuries, most commonly to the suspect but also to officers and bystanders.


Anonymous said...

This stands to reason that police should probably never be required to run "code" anymore. The lights on their cars should be used for traffic control only at crash scenes. The days of Smokey and the Bandit are over. Just keep this conviction in mind when the fire department casually responds to that structure fire or that beat officer from across town drives with the flow of traffic to get to an assault in progress on the other side. Admittedly, this conviction is based on a petty theft response and not an emergency. But why should they ever put themselves in that position anymore. The new police strategy: denial of service.

Anonymous said...

Bad headline Grits. Pursuit means that the officer was pursuing something. Better headline would be "police traffic death".

rodsmith said...

li take it your a copy 09:33:00AM?

personaly i think it's long past time the same yardstick was used on them that they have no problem applying to everyone else.

to drive like a crazy person and kill someone to responding as the reports put it!

"he sped to a low-priority shoplifting call at about 100 mph, running a red light at Potranco Road and Hunt Lane without overhead lights or a siren"

so let's see the idiot was running 100 miles an hour...NO lights...NO siren... running red lights...and to top it all the major crime he was trying to get to was a "low-priority shoplifting call"

this is a sustifiable conviction just like when a "so-called civilian" get's on for running a red light and t-boning a car and killing someone.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:44, good point - I'll change it.

@9:33, I agree the days of Smokey and the Bandit SHOULD be over, but the rest of your comment is pure foolishness. If this officer got to the shoplifting call a few minutes later, is that really "denial of service" or are you just blowing smoke? Besides, he wasn't running "code" - his lights and sirens were off.

Anonymous said...

Police pursuits for "low-priority" calls are far too common:
The reality is that innocent bystanders and motorists are often the ones who pay the price when officers are allowed to initiate senseless pursuits or drive recklessly on the way to calls.

Anonymous said...

"[...]for killing a fellow officer[...]"

That right there explains the harsh sentence.
If the victim had been a mere mundane rather than a costumed servant of the state I'm pretty sure the outcome would have been different.

Unknown said...

I believe this is a just sentence. I volunteer with the SAPD. I ride with officers on patrol and repsond to domestic violence calls to counsel the victims. The only time I have ever been in a speeding cruiser is when an assault or robbery is in progress and the lights and sirens have always been on. I have also seen that there are officers who just like to speed, shoot their tasers, and arrest as many people as possible. Seaton was one of these and he is paying the price for it. Being a cop in lock up is not going to go well.

@11:05 -- there was more than one victim-it was just a fellow officer who got killed

John Regan said...

What anon said. It's all about the victim being a police officer this time. The system wouldn't have done anything otherwise.

South Austin Viceroy said...

Anon. @ 09:33:

I can assure you the fire department does not casually respond to any structure fire. The response is structured and consistent at every dispatch.

You sound like a LEO who lost his driving privelage.

Anonymous said...

Seaton had originally entered into a plea bargain for 10 years deferred adjudication but then withdrew it just prior to sentencing. His prior lawyers were some of the best in the state. He obtained new lawyers and they pushed it to trial. Now he will have to serve 7.5 calendar years before he is eligible for parole. Seaton testified at BOTH phases of the trial. I just don't think the jury liked him at all. I have seen lesser sentences for intoxication manslaughter. Juries focus on who the defendant is and in his case, they obviously didn't believe him nor did they have any sympathy for him. I wonder what is going through his head now after turning down that old plea bargain offer?

Hook Em Horns said...

Hello Price Daniel Unit. I hope the officer can adjust to life in Snyder.

Anonymous said...

I came within a split second of this happening to me some twenty five years ago. I spotted him in the nick of time and stood on the brakes. I'll never forget the expression on his face as he flew past, illuminated by the headlights of my jeep. I used to wonder if they ever got the smell out of that car.

Pam said...

I was the presiding juror on the David Seaton case. We felt David Seaton's pain just as much as Simona Davis'. From testimony in both phases we came to believe that Seaton was a model officer who had one flaw. He was an habitual speeder. He testified that he averaged 13 to 15 calls per 8 hour shift in a geographically large and populous district, the busiest in San Antonio. He would either have to be Superman or speeding to all of his calls.

I felt the best defense of Seaton was the fact that no other officer had ever been charged with a felony in an accident involving serious injury or death unless the officer was intoxicated or tried to leave the scene. But we weren't allowed to consider this fact in our deliberations, plus the incident itself was so horrendous and the facts so damning, we had no choice but to find him guilty.

I have written two blog posts about the trial at
if you are interested in learning how we made our decisions.