DPS Dispatchers Knew Pursued Vehicle Had Child Inside

By Kim Fischer and Omar Villafranca
|  Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011  |  Updated 12:32 PM CDT
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They boy's family is criticizing the lines of communication and says troopers should not have fired on the vehicle.

Omar Villafranca, NBCDFW.com

They boy's family is criticizing the lines of communication and says troopers should not have fired on the vehicle.

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Father Faces Charges for Endangering Son

Stephen Capps, 35, is facing several charges after leading state troopers on a high-speed chase through two counties with his 3-year-old son in the car.
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The Department of Public Safety now says that dispatchers knew a 3-year-old boy was in a car involved in a pursuit minutes before troopers opened fire to stop the vehicle.

Stephen Capps, 35, led state troopers on a high-speed chase Monday afternoon through two counties with his 3-year-old son in the car.

DPS originally said that troopers did not know that 3-year-old Raythen Capps was in the car.

But troopers said Tuesday that dispatchers knew the child was in the vehicle. A DPS spokesman said dispatchers received a call from Hunt County telling them a child could be in the car.

Dispatchers sent the information out over the radio just minutes before the chase ended, but the troopers at the scene did not hear it over the chopper traffic.

The Capps family said the message should have been repeated until a trooper responded that it was received.

The chase ended after troopers fired more than 20 rounds into the car. A DPS spokesman said Capps aimed the car at troopers, allowing them to use deadly force.

Raythen was injured on his back in the pursuit, but troopers said the wound was not a gunshot wound. DPS originally thought the boy was grazed by gunfire.

Troopers said a bullet went through the back of his child seat but stopped just short of puncturing him.

However, the boy's family is questioning the injury and say that the booster seat does not have a back.

When asked what the chase policy is if a child is in the car, Tom Vinger with DPS said he was not aware of any specific policy. But he also said that " it would have changed the dynamic had we known."

"We rely on troopers to make sound judgments based on the circumstances they face," he said.

DPS Senior Cpl. Robert White also said that it's up to each trooper to make a decision on the situation.

The Capps family says there's no excuse for what Stephen Capps did, but family members also aren't happy with DPS' explanation of its protocol.

"I want them to change their protocol or have one so that this will never happen to another innocent child," said Teresia Barnes, Stephen Capps' mother. "My grandson was saved by the grace of God. And I don't want it to happen. It could be worse for someone else's child."

Members of the Capps family also are wondering how troopers weren't able to see 3-year-old Raythen, who was strapped to a booster seat during the chase.

"If they're saying my son ran one of them over, how could he get so close to them that they  didn't
know my little grandson was in the car with them?" Barnes said.

Raythen was released from Children's Medical Center in Dallas just after noon Tuesday.

Troopers said Capps twice dodged stop sticks, a tire-deflation device, and tried to hit them with his vehicle.

"We are all governed by the Texas penal code in the use of deadly force," White said. "Any time that an officer is threatened, any time a person is threatened, they can use deadly force."

Capps was shot twice in the stomach. He faces several charges in the chase, including endangering a child, attempted capital murder, evading police and drug possession.

NBCDFW's Shane Allen contributed to this report.

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