“I ask God for forgiveness every day” | Police officer sentenced for killing two teens during high-speed pursuit speaks for the first time

PORT ALLEN — On December 31, 2022, lives were irreversibly altered in West Baton Rouge Parish. What seemed like an ordinary New Year’s Eve turned tragic when two high school students lost their lives in a devastating collision. The incident occurred as a police officer disregarded a red light during a high-speed chase, resulting in a fatal collision with their vehicle.

Maggie Dunn and Caroline Gill were the unfortunate victims of this crash, while Maggie’s brother, Liam, sustained critical injuries.

In March, Addis police officer David Cauthron pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and one count of negligent injury, receiving a 10-year prison sentence.

While the Dunn and Gill families have shared their perspectives on this tragedy, we have not heard from Cauthron about his role in the chase and its impact on him and his family.

“It was a slow morning”

Cauthron says the morning of the crash was slow. He says that before the high-speed pursuit chatter lit up his police radio, he responded to just one other call that day.

While he was on his lunch break, the call came in reporting that Baton Rouge police officers were engaged in a pursuit crossing into West Baton Rouge Parish. Cauthron explains that deputies from the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office were occupied with an operation at the RaceTrac in Port Allen, leaving Addis and Brusly officers to respond.

“The Brusly officer was the first one to get into the pursuit, and I think I was the last in line,” Cauthron told Kiran Chawla on the Louisiana Unfiltered podcast. “

Detailing the course of the pursuit, Cauthron says that officers went through Addis and proceeded towards Plaquemine before the suspect executed a U-turn at Dow Chemical’s main gate. It was during this maneuver that Cauthron found himself directly trailing the suspect’s vehicle.

“This is gonna hurt”

  • Addis Police high speed pursuit crash

Once directly behind the suspect, Cauthron recalls ceasing communication with dispatchers, as per his training, and he focused solely on driving.

“I can hear them calling for spike strips on the radio,” he said. That’s when he added a little more space between him and the suspect while traveling nearly double the speed limit on La. 1.

“As we approached the intersection where the accident happened, I made the comment, ‘Fuck, this is gonna hurt,’ because he was going under the red light, and I could see cars coming. I thought he was going to get into a wreck, which is why I said what I said. It was put out like I said it because I knew I was going to get into a wreck. I never saw those girls’ car.”

Cauthron had his lights and sirens activated but reportedly failed to brake when approaching the red light. He says that all he remembers is a silver flash come in front of him. He was soon taken to the hospital with broken ribs, a concussion and injuries to his leg and groin.

Tragically, Maggie Dunn, 17, and Caroline Gill, 15, best friends and cheerleaders at Brusly High School, were turning onto La. 1 with a green light when Cauthron’s vehicle collided with theirs. Both teens lost their lives in the crash, while Dunn’s brother Liam, who was in the backseat, was left in critical condition.

  • Caroline Gill and Maggie Dunn
  • Liam Dunn

“I never wanted anything like this to happen”

Cauthron recalls that it was his police chief who informed him about the tragic outcome—that two young girls had been killed—while he was still in the hospital.

“I broke down. It’s the last thing I wanted to happen. I’m a father of four; I love my kids. I love kids in general. I never wanted anything like this to happen,” he said as he wiped away tears.

Following the incident, Cauthron was arrested on January 2, 2023, and charged with two counts of negligent homicide in West Baton Rouge Parish. After posting bail, he submitted his resignation letter to Addis Police on January 9, which was accepted by the Addis Town Council on February 1.

Cauthron reflects that the weeks and months since the deadly crash have left him and his family in shambles.

“Even in February, after all of this stuff happened, I was working at Wendy’s in Plaquemine, and I was forced to quit that job by the DA’s office because one of the family members came through the drive-thru while I was working, and they didn’t want to be served by a murderer.”

His arrest put immense pressure on the entire family, including his wife Sheroyauna and their four children.

“I cried for days,” Sheroyauna said. “The people in the community were trying to get us to move away. It was a scary situation. My dad came and stayed with me for a few days. It was just horrible.”

Ultimately, the couple found it necessary to withdraw their kids from school due to the negative attention they were receiving. They relocated from Addis to New Roads last summer.

“It’s a sad situation. I don’t want (our kids) to look at (their father) as being an animal,” Sheroyauna said. “That’s what the world sees him as now, you know. And he’s not that type of person. He has a heart. He’s a big teddy bear. My kids look at him as a hero.”

“If I could trade places with those girls I would”

Instead of going to trial on the charges of negligent homicide for which he was arrested, Cauthron chose to accept a plea deal in court on March 18, with the consent of the Gill & Dunn families.

Cauthron reveals that he had prepared two pages to read in court during his sentencing. However, he was advised by his lawyer to condense his statement to the families.

“They didn’t want to hear anything about my family’s problems,” he said. “The DA’s office told (my attorney) that the family didn’t want to hear anything about my family, that they didn’t care about my family. I don’t know if that’s true. That’s what I was told. So, I had to basically scratch out everything that I wrote about my family … and whittled it down to a paragraph of just me apologizing.”

Cauthron expressed that he wanted for the families to understand that the incident was an accident and not something done intentionally.

“I know they hate me, but it was an accident. If I could trade places with those girls I would. I’ve asked God several times why not just take me instead of those babies? I wish that he would have. But I know it would hurt my family as much as it hurts them. But I would trade places with them in a heartbeat.”

“I don’t hate them for the things they said about me in the courtroom; I understand where it came from. I’m not completely stupid to the fact that I took their children’s lives. I’m not completely heartless to say that I don’t care how they feel. I do. I have anxiety attacks every time I pass that intersection. I don’t even go see my mom, who lives in Plaquemine, because I don’t want to pass that intersection.”

“I wake up in cold sweats at night. I’ve contemplated suicide so many times, but I can’t leave my family without somebody to take care of them. Even though I have to do that anyway because I’m going to jail. I don’t blame them for hating me; I just want them to know that I did not reach out to them because I was told not to. Not because I didn’t care.”

Read Now: Maggie Dunn family’s statements to Cauthron

Read Now: Caroline Gill family’s statements to Cauthron

“I despise police pursuits”

In addition to serving jail time, the plea agreement specifies that Cauthron will be permanently barred from working in any law enforcement capacity upon his release. He will also undergo three years of probation and be responsible for paying all associated fines.

As part of the plea deal, the families requested that Cauthron engage with high school students, sharing his experience in hopes of preventing similar tragedies in the future. He will also speak to police officers about police pursuits and the potential consequences they can entail.

“I despise police pursuits. I never wanted to be involved in them, but that was part of the job. I made a bad decision to enter that intersection. I admitted that. But I never saw that car. If I would have, I would have swerved to miss them; I would have taken the chance of killing myself. But I never saw that vehicle.”

Cauthron criticizes the BRPD’s decision to initiate the police chase, emphasizing that he was not provided with all the relevant information about the suspect. According to him, dispatch informed him that Baton Rouge police were engaged in a pursuit involving a stolen vehicle with an armed suspect, who was suspected of involvement in a home invasion and armed robbery. He says that he thought that the suspect had forcibly entered a residence with a firearm and subsequently fled in a stolen car.

Tyquel Zanders, 24, reportedly started the pursuit after breaking into his parents’ home in Baton Rouge on December 31, 2022, assaulting his father, and then stealing their car. Cauthron asserts that despite the pursuit crossing parish lines, the Baton Rouge Police Department was aware of the suspect’s identity and residence.

“Why even start to pursue if they knew all that,” Cauthron questioned. “We didn’t know he broke into his daddy’s house, took his daddy’s car. We didn’t know any of that.”

“I’m sorry for all the pain that I’ve caused”

Cauthron is scheduled to report to prison on May 23. He says he does not yet know where he’ll serve his 10-year sentence.

He says that he lost his job due to his criminal conviction, and in the weeks leading up to his incarceration, he has been preparing himself and his family for his departure.

“It’s gonna be hard for them when he’s gone,” Sheroyauna said.

The couple shares that their children are bracing themselves for a life without their father, something that weighs especially heavily on their youngest daughter.

“She’s scared to go to school every morning because she’s scared when she comes home I’m not gonna be there. I’ve told them all (that they) need to be strong for their mama.”

Despite the challenges his family faces, Cauthron acknowledges that the grief endured by the Dunn and Gill families surpasses their own struggles.

“I can’t take it back no matter how much I want to. And I’m sorry for all the pain that I’ve caused families and the community. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on the latest news across the Capital area. 

One Response

  1. My hearts hurts so bad for the Dunn and Gill families. I cannot imagine their intense heartbreak every time they pass that intersection.
    I also feel bad for this former officer. At no time does an officer leave his family thinking today will be the day I kill two beautiful girls. I sincerely hope the Gill and Dunn families can one day forgive the officer.

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