Ashley’s law: Following up on Ashley McIntosh’s deadly car crash

Ashley McIntosh who died in a tragic car crash with police officer Perry

Virginia Residents!

A Plea From Ashley’s Mother: Bringing Ashley’s Law to the Table

Dr. Robyn Silverman

As you know we’ve been following the tragic story of Ashley McIntosh, my niece’s teacher, who died in a horrible collision with a police officer, Amanda Perry, on an icy day last February. Witnesses had clearly seen the police car speeding through the red light without a siren, yet with lights, towards the intersection where Ashley was thrown from the car and killed. Many of you have responded in comments about this story over the last year.

There have been many questions around the negligence of the police officer as she didn’t have a siren on—something that hasn’t been required by the police. In fact, the law states that police officers are exempt from the red light/green light law if their “speed is sufficiently reduced.” While Officer Perry had been charged with reckless driving  in May, she was not found guilty in September. Now, it’s time to look at the bigger picture.  We need to protect others.

While there is no way to bring back Ashley, Ashley’s mother, Cindy McIntosh Colasanto, is trying to bring Ashley’s Law to the lawmakers.  This law would require police officers to use their lights and sirens (and slow to a safe speed) when driving through red lights .Anyone in Virginia, please pay attention:

Dear Virginia Resident,

I want to thank you for your signature on the petition urging state legislators to introduce “Ashley’s Law,” a law that would require police officers to slow their cars and turn on their sirens when driving through red lights.    My daughter, Ashley, was killed when a Fairfax County police officer failed to take those simple, life-saving measures.

State Senator Toddy Puller has now introduced a bill requiring officers to follow those guidelines.

Now I want to ask you one more favor that could make the difference in whether this bill become law.

Would you please write/email/call your local senator and representative urging him or her to vote for this bill?

I have included a sample letter that you can cut and paste into an email or letter.

Thank you for your support.   Your actions could truly save a life.

With gratitude,

Cindy McIntosh Colasanto, Ashley’s mother

Dear Assemblyman/Senator ________________:

I am writing to urge you to vote for SB 847 which will require Virginia police officers to slow to a safe speed and use their sirens when driving through red lights.
This is a common-sense requirement which protects innocent citizens as well as police by reducing the risk of potentially deadly collisions.

Thank you,

If you are a Virginia resident, please lend your support to the McIntosh family.

Best regards,

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Related:

Original article on Ashley McIntosh

*May 2nd 2008 update here.

*September 2008 update here

Ashley’s law website here

When Role Models Fail Us: Where Does It Leave the Children?

When Police Officers, Celebrities, and the Government Fail to be Role Models

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

We all make mistakes. It’s human. But we don’t always clean up our messes. As adults—parents, educators, and mentors—we play an important role in teaching children how to cope with mistakes. It’s not always pretty—it’s not always easy—but it’s the responsible thing to do.

But what happens when our role models fail us?

Police Officers: For example, we teach our children that police officers are role models. They look out for us and keep us safe. We may know they aren’t infallible—but we often gloss over that part when we explain their roles to children. They are therefore held in high regard as the people who can do know wrong since they seemingly make what’s wrong right in the world. But after the lack of justice served for Ashley McIntosh (my niece’s 33 year old assistant teacher who was killed last February), parents and educators are still in an uproar. The courts ruled that the police officer, Amanda Perry, didn’t need to take any responsibility for crashing into a young Fairfax County citizen when traveling through a red light without her siren on during a slick, icy night. How can we teach children and teens to take responsibility for themselves and our role models refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes?

Note: Virginia Residents: Help make Ashley’s law a reality by signing this free petition. The law would mandate that emergency vehicle operators always use their lights and siren when driving through red lights, and mandate emergency vehicle operators slow their vehicles so they are able to make a controlled stop when driving through any intersection.

Celebrities: Our children look to celebrities for inspiration and are often crushed when things don’t go as expected. The world seemed to stop cold when Miley Cyrus posed for Vanity Fair in April. She was the real life Disney princess—the everydaughter—the everyfriend—and both parents and young girls felt blindsided by her decision to pose for Annie Leibovitz with only a sheet covering her. She didn’t take responsibility. Nobody did. How can we teach our children and teens the importance of taking responsibility when those in limelight refuse to do so?

Government: Children and teens look to local and national government officials and something to aspire to in their later years. Every child wants to be in charge, don’t they? Many dream of becoming president! But during a year of scandal and shame, in which government has been often equated with adultery, failure, partisanship, and disappointment we must wonder what our children are thinking. Who wants to aspire to be THAT ? When golden parachutes open for those who steal, lie, and cheat, can we really teach our children that it’s best to admit mistakes, take responsibility, and clean up their messes?

What is your role in teaching children to take responsibility?

Redefine role models: Teach your children that people don’t become role models because they hold a particular position—that’s just their job. An oval office or a red carpet doesn’t make a role model. From police officers to celebrities to the little old lady down the street, people become role models because of their character and what they do. And of course- don’t forget to look in the mirror to see their most important role model…you.

Show them that role models are all around us: It’s true. Role models can be found everywhere and anywhere. They may be the responsible babysitter next door who always calls if she’s running a few minutes late or the stay at home mother who volunteers at the local animal shelter twice a week. They can be the teacher who stays an hour after school to help a struggling student or the business man who spends his Saturdays being a “Big Brother” to a child in need. They are every color, every size, every age, and every shape. Find these role models and expose your child to them.

Teach them that role models are not infallible but fix their mistakes: Even those with the best character are not immune to mistakes. That’s not the point. It’s what role models do with those mistakes once they make them. A true role model, whether they’re high ranking officials or a coaches at a Powerful Words Member School program always makes full attempts to mop up their messes and leave things better than they were before they were made.

Be the role model they deserve: Children need to know that for a great role model, they don’t have to look farther than their own home or schools. Parents and teachers must hold themselves to the highest standards. No matter what’s on TV or in the movies, you are the superheroes in their worlds. So try not to make huge mistakes—but if you do—work on fixing them…fast.  Post this up in your minds– if I knew my actions were setting the precedent for the next generation of leaders, would I be doing this? If not, stop. If you already did, see tip #3.

Teach them to be the role model they desire: Children need to know that what they choose to do is important if they want to be leaders. Ask them, how would a great leader handle this problem? What choice should the leader in you make? When they see themselves as leaders and are certain that you expect and know that they can be a powerful role model, they will rise to the occasion 9 out of 10 times.

Tell them to keep their heads high and their eyes on their own plate: This advice came straight from my father while I was growing up. Children and teens need to be confident in their own decisions. They can’t worry about what everyone is doing, thinking, or saying. When we focus on our own goals, other people’s choices don’t throw us.

Talk about mistakes and ask them for their opinions: When role models make mistakes, allow your children and teens to talk about it in their own words. Ask questions. Allow them to vent. Children need to know that they can come to you and talk openly about their frustration, confusion, and concerns. When you simply make yourself “available” to talk and listen, you are teaching them to become critical thinkers and helping them to realize that they can disagree with their role models or even change their minds about them. Talking it out will help them to digest what they’ve heard, expand their minds, and make decisions.

Of course, role models will continue to make blunders. We will continue to make mistakes. But we can’t throw up our hands and say “there’s nothing I can do.” That statement is simply untrue and irresponsible. We have to do better by our children if we want them to do better—be better—think better—as they grow, develop, and lead.

Please comment below– any ideas on how to deal with the failure of role models? We want to hear what you have to say!

Happy Columbus Day-

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Ashley McIntosh: Denied Justice for Deadly Car Crash with Police?

Ashley McIntosh: Justice Denied?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Bad weather, No Siren, Red Light: A case of an Officer given preferential treatment? You Make the Call

As many of you know, my niece Evie and her schoolmates lost their beloved teaching assistant, Ashley McIntosh (affectionately known as Miss Mac), last February when a police officer, Amanda Perry, crashed into her Toyota sedan. The Fairfax County police officer, as witnessed by several onlookers, had driven through a red light with her emergency lights on but without a siren. Upon impact, Ashley was tragically ejected from the vehicle.

Although the officer had been charged with reckless driving in May, she was found not guilty last week to the shock of Ashley’s family and friends.

“Taking the totality of the circumstances I don’t find the evidence rises to a level that the driving was reckless.” — General District Judge Sarah L. Deneke

Witnesses all voiced that police officer Perry was driving at a speed close to 50 mph and spend through the intersection. Virginia law states that officers are actually not required to sound their sirens when they’re running red lights. (Clearly, this law needs to be amended as the practice resulted in a preventable deadly crash). Perry stated that she was indeed trying to turn on her siren while making herself aware of the traffic ahead of her but despite her efforts, “it did not come on.”

A video from officer Perry’s dashboard, which showed that the officer hit the brakes and turned on her emergency lights, was the key piece of evidence that prompted the not guilty verdict. Perry had perceived that the intersection was clear. For several seconds before the crash, the officer did not use her brakes or swerve. The light had been red for about 5 seconds prior to the crash. Perhaps not surprisingly, she claimed that McIntosh’s car “came out of nowhere.” Perry was going between 38-44 mph, according to crash experts, when the crash occurred. Perry was not seriously hurt but Ashley suffered fatal injuries that led to her death the following day.

“The judge saw the video and heard all the testimony and the judge found that that did not rise to the level of a conscious disregard for life, limb or property,” Ed Nuttall, defense attorney

Ashley McIntosh had her whole life ahead of her. She was loved by the children at Clermont Elementary School. She was engaged to the love of her life. She was young and contagiously happy.

Ashley’s supporters, many of whom signed the petition that begged for justice to be served despite the fact that an officer was involved which appeared to be delaying and swaying the process, are in shock. She has yet to apologize to the family. Perry has taken no responsibility whatsoever. Supporter recently commented on our blog about the outrage concerning the lack of outrage and the fact that Amanda Perry was allowed to leave the courtroom through a special entrance, without statement.

It is obvious that the reckless driving charge was a set up. It was a charge designed to placate Fx Co residents but it is a charge the Commonwealth’s Attorney knew could, and would, be defeated. A charge of running a red light was indisputable and would have certainly resulted in a conviction and would have paved the way for a wrongful death suit. Where is the outrage? Other than the Washington Post, I have not connected with any of the outrage this case deserves. –RT Greenwood

Now that the officer has been found “not guilty” of the absurdly low level charge DESPITE traversing the intersection at 45 mph with NO SIREN activated (to investigate shoplifting?), will you be following through to demand some independent oversight for the Fairfax County police, required to attain no more than a high school diploma in a county and state with NO independent Ethics Commission/No Inspector General and led (as “chiefs” of police) by a revolving door of insider males? Should the defendent have been allowed to leave the courtroom through a side door used by deputies? –C Green

Cindy Colasanto, Ashley’s grieving mother, read a statement prepared in the event of an unexpected acquittal.

“It’s beyond any understanding I have to think that an officer of the law, sworn to protect and defend us, is not held responsible for the irresponsible decision she made, responding to a call and resulting in the violent death of my daughter. Her misdeed has caused my family lifelong grief and a pain that we’ll never forget.”

The attorney for Officer Perry argued that the crash was the fault of Ashley. Ashley’s car was going about 22 to 26 mph through her green light.

“It’s clear from the video, Ms. McIntosh’s vehicle is not taking a left-hand turn. . . . The way in which Ms. McIntosh’s vehicle was driven was unforeseeable [to Officer Perry] and therefore the reason that this impact occurred.” –Edward Nuttall

NOTE: While Ashley’s light was definitely green and Officer Perry’s light was certainly red, police officers are exempt from the red light/green light law if their “speed is sufficiently reduced.” Of course, considering that they have due regard to the safety of persons and property.” However, the law states that the officers must have both their lights and their siren on, which was not the case here.

My deepest condolences to Ashley’s family and loved ones.

Do you think the officer was given the same treatment and verdict as a common citizen would be given? Voice your opinion.

Police Officer Charged: Justice for Ashley McIntosh, Kindergarten Teaching Assistant

Many of you shared your heartfelt condolences and your frustrations when I wrote about the tragic death of Ashley McIntosh, the beloved teaching assistant of my niece, Evie, and her kindergarten classmates. “Miss Mac,” as the children called her, was killed in a traffic accident when a police car collided with Ashley’s car. Witnesses had clearly seen the police car speeding without a siren, yet with lights, towards the intersection where Ashley was thrown from the car and killed. Here is the full Washington Post article.

Many of you signed the petition for Ashley McIntosh’s fair and speedy investigation. Thank you. Since my last posting on this topic, many people in the community came together to plant McIntosh trees in honor of Ashley. But time marched on and there were concerns of delays due to police involvement.

I received an email today detailing how things progressed, and I wanted to share it with you:

I thought you would like to know that the officer who hit Ashley McIntosh’s car was charged today with reckless driving. I am a lawyer in Fairfax and a lifelong resident here. This is the first time an officer has been charged with a crime for an act committed while on duty. We do have a new chief prosecutor here. There is a news release from the Fairfax County Police:

Fairfax County Police Department
Public Information Office
4100 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, Va. 22030
703-246-2253. TTY 703-204-2264. Fax 703-246-4253
FCPD-PIO@fairfaxcounty.gov
www.fairfaxcounty.gov/police
News Release: 08/045/2575/sb(2)
May 2, 2008

UPDATE – Officer Charged in Fatal Crash

On Friday, May 2, Officer Amanda Perry, 22, was charged with reckless driving after a review of the evidence by the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The charge stems from a fatal crash on Tuesday, February 12 at the intersection of Richmond Highway and Boswell Drive. Perry was issued a summons at police headquarters. Officer Perry remains on restricted duty pending the outcome of an internal administrative review.

UPDATE

The driver and sole occupant of the car involved in this crash has died of her injuries at Inova Fairfax Hospital. She has been identified as Ashley McIntosh, 33, of 1410 Oakbrooke Avenue in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.

Colonel David M. Rohrer, Chief of the Fairfax County Police Department, issued the following statement:

I wish to express our condolences and heartfelt sympathy to Ms McIntosh’s family and friends on behalf of the Fairfax County Police Department and myself.

I also want to assure them and the citizens of Fairfax County that we are in the process of conducting a comprehensive, balanced, and fair investigation of this crash. In the days ahead, as we move forward in our investigation, we will also share our findings with the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for all of your support.

Justice for Ashley: My Niece’s Teacher Died Too Soon

ashleymcintosh.jpg

The kids all called her “Miss Mac” and loved her greatly.

Hi everyone-

I wanted to share a personal story that was featured in the Washington Post today that has touched my life recently.

My six year old niece, Evie, and her classmates received some devastating news when one of their favorite teaching assistants, Ashley McIntosh, age 33, was killed in a traffic accident last month. Concerns have been launched about the fairness of the investigation because the accident happened when a police car collided with Ashley’s car. The family is suffering greatly since little information has been released as the police are doing their investigation.

Witnesses clearly saw the police car speeding without a siren, yet with lights, towards the intersection where Ashley was thrown from the car and killed. Here is the full article.

Now close to 800 people, including myself and my family, have signed a petition asking for a thorough and fair investigation by police. It can be signed publicly or anonymously but please, would you take a moment to sign it? It’s free-They’re not asking for any money– just a signature of support. The McIntosh family has already been through so much and the children and families who loved her deserve to know what “really” happened.

NOTE: Petitioners have been advised not to contribute money to the website. “Advise supporters NOT to contribute to the petition website. That is not associated with our effort.” Also, you can uncheck the box that asks for future emails on other petitions– again, this is not the point of the effort. The supporters thank you in advance.

Petition here.

October 14, 2008 update: Virginia Residents: Help make Ashley’s law a reality by signing this free petition. The law would mandate that emergency vehicle operators always use their lights and siren when driving through red lights, and mandate emergency vehicle operators slow their vehicles so they are able to make a controlled stop when driving through any intersection.

*May 2nd 2008 update here.

*September 2008 update here

Ashley’s law website here

Warm regards,

drrobynsig.jpg

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