‘My Reason to Live': Family of Maryland Woman Killed in Police Pursuit Crash Seeks Answers

Noraly Paz Chávez, of Riverdale, died early Saturday after she crashed into a fence post and a tree on Randolph Road in Wheaton, Maryland.

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The family of a 26-year-old woman killed in a crash following a traffic stop and a police pursuit in Maryland says they want more answers from authorities on what exactly occurred.

Noraly Paz Chávez, of Riverdale, died early Saturday after she crashed into a fence post and a tree on Randolph Road in Wheaton, Maryland.

Montgomery County police said an officer saw a car commit a traffic violation about 1:30 a.m. Saturday in North Bethesda. As the officer tried to conduct a traffic stop, the woman driving, identified as Paz Chávez, drove away, authorities said.

Paz Chávez lost control of her car while she was being pursued and crashed nearly 2.5 miles from the traffic stop location, police said.

She died at the scene. The other occupant of the vehicle, a man, suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital for treatment, police said.

Paz Chávez’s family told Telemundo 44 they don’t understand how the accident ended up killing her.

“She was my reason to live, I don’t understand what happened,” Wanda Paz Chávez, Noraly’s mother, said. “I don’t understand why she [drove away]. I don’t understand what happened. When I ask, all [police] tell me is that they can’t talk about it, that it’s being investigated.”

“The car is not damaged in the front, but it is in the back,” she said.

Paz Chávez’s family said Noraly had a license and did not have a criminal record.

“My sister was a good girl, she had a big heart,” Francis Chávez said. “I want [police] to change the way they treat people. I don’t think it’s fair, the process that caused things to end up like this. I want them to help us. I want them to investigate.”

Montgomery County police said the officer’s car did not make contact with the Honda Civic and that it was not involved in the crash.

Authorities said the officer’s body-worn and dashboard cameras and microphone were activated during the incident.

The investigation is being handled by the State’s Attorney General Independent Investigation Division (IID) with assistance from the Maryland State Police.

The IID "generally releases body camera footage or dashboard camera footage within 14 days of an incident,” the state’s attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Noraly Paz Chávez is survived by her 7-year-old son. She dreamed of eventually becoming a pediatrician and worked for a year at George Washington Hospital, her family said.

“He's a sweet little boy,” Francis Chávez said about her nephew. “He’s only 7 years old, and the hardest thing is trying to keep strong, not shed too many tears in front of him, because he's aware what's going on. He knows his mommy is not coming back."

She said the wait for body camera and dashcam footage of the crash to be released is agonizing and the family is desperate to provide the son with answers. 

“He asks why, what happened, and we can't even answer that for him,” she said. “We don’t know and we want to know just so we can get some type of closure."

The officer involved in the pursuit has been identified as Antonio Copeland, a 16-and-a-half-year veteran of the Montgomery County Police Department.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Noraly Paz Chávez's name.

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