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Thu, Oct. 17

Pursuit claims reach $115 million

The Town of Prescott Valley received notice of claim Tuesday, May15 from a fifth parent, the mother of one of the three men killed Jan. 26 when a fleeing felon in a stolen SUV slammed into the vehicle in which he was riding. Chay Ferro, mother of 25-year-old victim Wylld Ferro, is demanding $5 million.

Town officials remain silent in the face of five claims now totaling $115 million.

"Following standard procedure, Town staff has forwarded this claim to the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool, of which the Town is a member, for claims adjustment," Town Manager Tony Mortillaro said in what has become a standard press release as the lawsuits mount. "Pending review of this claim by the Risk Retention Pool, the Town will have no further public comment."

Wylld and his two friends, Daniel Kamholz and Evan Spencer, both 18, died in their pickup truck about 1 a.m. on Jan 26 when the stolen SUV driven by Jesus Genato Peralta slammed into it at high speed in downtown Prescott during a pursuit by Prescott Valley police.

Judy Kamholz, mother of Daniel Kamholz, was the first to file a claim against the Town, for $5 million. Merrill Spencer, father of Evan Spencer, filed a $50 million claim in March, and Susan Spencer, mother of Evan Spencer, filed her own $50 million claim in March. Roger Kamholz filed the fourth claim against the Town in the incident on May 9, demanding $5 million.

A Prescott Valley official said the Town could face as many as six claims, one from each of the parents of the men killed in the collision.

In the Jan. 26 incident, Peralta was fleeing from pursuing Prescott Valley police officers after deliberately running over one PV officer and attempting to run over a second with the stolen vehicle, according to Prescott Valley Police Chief Daniel Schatz. The assaults occurred about 1 a.m. at a PV convenience store parking lot when officers approached the vehicle to investigate a report that it had been stolen.

Officer Kel Palguta fired at least one shot through the windshield as Peralta drove at him, and suffered minor injuries when the SUV struck him as he dove to one side. Palguta received treatment at YRMC for minor injuries and was immediately released at the time, but he later underwent shoulder surgery as a result of the hit and run.

In a six and a half minute pursuit that reached speeds near 90 miles per hour, officers chased Peralta down SR 69 into Prescott. A call from officers requesting 'stop sticks' to puncture the SUVs tires failed when a YCSO deputy could not get into position in time. The pursuit ended when Peralta slammed into the pickup truck at Montezuma and Gurley streets, demolishing both vehicles and killing the three young men. Peralta survived both the collision and a reported gunshot wound to the chest. He is being held in Yavapai County jail on three homicide charges, in addition to charges of felony flight, vehicle theft, and criminal damage.

The high speed chase brought scathing criticism of PVPD from Prescott City officials, including Mayor Sam Steiger, who also claimed Precott PD has a 'no pursuit' policy.

But in a déjà vu police chase on Sunday afternoon, May 6, YCSO deputies pursued a fleeing misdemeanor suspect on Highway 69 from Prescott Valley to Prescott. The deputies broke off the chase at 95 miles per hour near Bullwhacker Hill in deference to public safety, according to YCSO spokesperson Sharon Wachter. Precott police picked up the chase when the suspect evaded a police roadblock at the Highway 69/89 intersection, and they pursued the suspect in the downtown area and on residential streets at speeds reaching 72 miles per hour. The chase ended when the suspect crashed into a dirt embankment, causing neck and back injuries to his passenger.

In a Daily Courier interview Steiger declined to "second guess" Prescott police in the incident.

Contrary to Steiger's earlier claim, Prescott police spokesman Sgt. Mike Kabbel confirmed that Prescott PD does have a policy to pursue fleeing felons, and that the May 6 chase apparently fell within that policy.

Because the suspect assaulted a Prescott police officer manning the roadblock by driving his car directly at the officer - as Peralta did to PV police in the Jan. 26 incident - the suspect became a fleeing felon, Kabbel said, which Prescott police will pursue.

(Contact Art Merrill at amerrill@prescott az.com or 772-2679 ext. 1113)

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