A Louisiana police officer has been arrested and charged after striking a vehicle during a high-speed chase that left two high school cheerleaders dead.
David Cauthron, 42, was charged with two counts of negligent homicide on Sunday in the incident that killed Maggie Dunn, 17, and Caroline Gill, 16. Dunn’s brother, Liam Dunn, a freshman at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, was also left in critical condition after the crash.
18th Judicial District Attorney Tony Clayton told WBRZ-TV that Cauthron has been placed on administrative leave from the Addis Police Department. Cauthorn was reported as in custody as of Monday afternoon.
The chase occurred after Tyquel Zanders, 24, was accused of stealing a family vehicle. He reportedly entered a home, shoved his father down, and took the keys to a 2016 Nissan Altima, the Advocate reported.
Zanders was pursued by Cauthorn, with the outlet noting that the Altima was moving at about 80 miles per hour on Government Street and 110 miles per hour on Interstate 10. The police vehicle reportedly ran through a red light and did not apply brakes before striking the vehicle the two cheerleaders were in.
“For these kids to not to have been able to start the New Year is inexcusable, but we’ll follow the facts first,” Clayton told the outlet. “I just can’t put my arms around why (the officer) was driving at that rate of speed in pursuit of this vehicle. This officer is facing some serious issues.”
“If it involves putting human life in danger, stop the damn pursuit. It’s just not worth the risk,” he added.
The car theft suspect was later apprehended after the vehicle stalled. Zanders faces counts in Baton Rouge of home invasion, theft of a vehicle, and aggravated flight, according to Baton Rouge police. He could also face manslaughter charges connected to the deaths of the two teenagers, the outlet added.
The Brusly High School cheerleading team paid tribute to their fellow cheerleaders in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“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 cheerleading team posted. “Their enthusiasm and bright smiles will be missed more than can be imagined.”
Brusly High School Principal Walt Lemoine said that Dunn’s mother and sister work at the school and that Gill’s older sister is a senior.
“We are saddened by the loss to our school community and will make every effort to help you and your child as you need,” Lemoine wrote.
The school held a vigil on Monday evening and an assembly on Tuesday morning as students returned to campus.