Headshot of Ronaldo Johnson. He is a Black teenage male wearing a red waterproof jacket and black life jacket, staring directly into the camera and smiling. Behind him is a river and green foliage. He is in a canoe, but the canoe has been cropped out.

17-year-old passenger in speeding car chased by police was ‘unlawfully killed’, inquest determines

  • Coroner rules that 17-year-old Ronaldo Johnson died as a result of a road traffic collision caused by dangerous driving.
  • Ronaldo’s injuries were ‘unsurvivable’, court hears
  • Family say they are ‘still fighting for justice’

The death of a 17-year-old passenger who was driven through a red light while being pursued by police has been ruled an unlawful killing, an inquest has determined.

Ronaldo Johnson, who was not wearing a seatbelt, died as a result of head and chest injuries six days after the crash, after being placed in a coma.

The driver of the car, Elliot Martin, has already pleaded guilty to causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving and sentenced to six years in prison. He was invited to attend the inquest, though did not respond to a letter sent to him in prison.

Mugshot of Elliot Martin. He is a white teenager with brown hair, a beard, and a grey T-shirt. His head is tilted upwards and he is looking over the camera.
Elliot Martin Credit: GMP

Ronaldo’s injuries were said by A&E consultant Dr Nigel Zoltie to be ‘unsurvivable’. Dr Zoltie had previously written a report for the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) on Ronaldo’s death on 31 March, 2021.

The inquest heard from PC Stuart Oram that he saw the Ford Focus Ronaldo was a passenger in go through a red light on Wilmslow Road in Withington at 3.45am before travelling down Palatine Road and turning into Copson Street.  When the officer activated his sirens, the Focus sped away along Yew Tree Road.

The officer gave chase and the Focus reached speeds of up to 65mph before going through a red light at the junction with Mauldeth Road West and crashing into an oncoming taxi.

PC Oram said he had intended to halt the pursuit as the Focus approached the junction because he deemed the risk to the public “too high”.

The inquest heard that driver Elliot Martin fled the scene and was pursued by PC Oram on foot. When questioned by the family’s lawyer, Christian Weaver, why he did not immediately attend to any casualties, PC Oram said he had not been initially aware of any passengers in the Focus and that he had been gone “for no more than two minutes”.

“I had a fleeing offender,” he said. “I made the decision to go after the offender. That’s the decision I made, so I have to stand by that.”

PC Oram admitted that he should have directly requested an ambulance via the control room instead of simply saying “serious crash, serious crash”, which he believed would prompt an emergency response.

Despite this, paramedics were said to have arrived on the scene quickly, with Dr Zoltie telling the inquest: “If PC Oram called several minutes earlier, Ron’s survivability would have been unaltered.”

Ronaldo was given first aid at the scene before being placed in critical care at Salford Royal Hospital. A post-mortem examination revealed he died from brain and lung injuries and multi-organ failure caused by his injuries in the crash.

‘More harm than good’

Assistant coroner Nick Stanage recorded a determination of unlawful killing into Ronaldo’s death as a result of the crash but declined to issue a ‘prevention of future deaths report’ when requested by Mr Weaver, stating that “it would do more harm than good” to suggest there were any deficiencies in training regarding pursuit procedures.

“I’m unmoved to suggest there is a gap in police training. I find that the observations by GMP are persuasive and evidence around deficiencies in training is unclear. I cannot see a clear gap in training that poses a significant risk of death to the public,” he said.

Ronaldo Johnson with his his mother, three sisters, and two brothers, all smiling for the camera with their arms around each other. He is third from the right, wearing a white t-shirt and beige shorts. He is looking directly into the camera and smiling with his arms around his brother and sister, who are hugging him back. In the background is a swimming pool, palm trees, and a blue sky.
Ronaldo Johnson (third from right) with his family Credit: Family handout

In a statement following the inquest, Ronaldo’s family expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the proceedings, saying they were “deeply concerned” that lives may be lost in the future as a result of police pursuits.

“We are fighting for justice for Ronaldo and will continue to fight for him. We ask you to support the Ronaldo Thierry Johnson Foundation.”

Solicitor Emma Gilbert, who represented the family alongside Mr Weaver, said the family were disappointed the coroner had made no direct reference to the police pursuit during the hearing.

Ronaldo Johnson's family holding a white homemade banner, which reads: "Who do we turn to for support or answers when an agent of the state kills a loved one? Ronaldo was innocent."
The banner is being held by two boys wearing masks of Ronaldo's face. They are standing at a candelit vigil outside Friends Meeting House, and it is dark outside.
Family of Ronaldo Johnson holding a banner at the #EndPolicePursuits candelit vigil Credit: Leslie Kerwin

She said: “Ron’s death did not happen in a vacuum. It happened in the context of at least eight deaths following police pursuits by Greater Manchester Police in 2021/22 alone, according to statistics by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”

Solicitor for GMP police, Caroline Jones, told the inquest that police officers received first aid training for treating victims at the scene of a crash and said there was no suggestion that officers were not also given training in vehicle pursuits of suspects.

‘Loved by his peers’

Ronaldo’s mother, Lorraine Dias, told the inquest her son was “a shy boy who was well loved by his peers”.

“He had a beautiful smile and his response was always ‘I’ve got this’ when faced with any challenges,” she said.

Candid photo of Ronaldo Johnson wearing a construction uniform. He wears a yellow hard hat and a dark T-shirt, and appears to be halfway taking off a dark jacket with a high-vis strip. He is looking directly into the camera. The weather is sunny and there are some disassembled scaffolding pipes on the ground behind him.
Ronaldo Johnson Credit: Family handout

Growing up, she said she was regularly confused when “a week’s worth of food would be gone in two or three days” whenever her son was around.

“After he died, the mystery was finally solved,” she said, after his friends told her he would regularly give his food away to those in need.

“He made sure no one ever went hungry.”

Ronaldo’s sister, Keshia, said after the inquest: “Ronaldo was my little brother. I was there when he was born and I was there when he died. His death has left a massive hole in our lives. I do not get texts every morning and I do not get to see his smile. He is greatly missed.”