DALLAS — It was 10:45 p.m. Monday.
Grand Prairie police officer Brandon Tsai, who had joined the department only 10 months prior, was near the corner of Southwest 3rd Street and Pioneer Parkway.
Police said he tried to stop a silver Chevy Malibu that had a fake paper tag where a real license plate should be.
The sedan took off -- and Tsai followed.
A few miles into the chase, Tsai’s cruiser struck a fellow officer’s vehicle, rolled onto its side and slid into a pole.
Tsai was killed.
Chief Daniel Scesney said the pursuit adhered to department policy.
“I’m always willing to take a look at my policy but I don’t see anything wrong with what this officer did. Full stop. Period," he said.
He added that the policy wasn't the problem.
The fake tag was.
Scesney believes Tsai took one look at the temporary paper tag and could “immediately” tell it was fictitious.
“We have fictitious tags all over the place and quite frankly it cost a cop his life,” he said.
Scesney said the paper tag the vehicle was using – Number 0330S43 -- had been seen on more than 200 vehicles in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
And he said 200 was a conservative estimate.
He said criminals make copies of fake tags and use them to conceal their identities, committing crimes in vehicles that are almost impossible to trace.
But police can only do so much, Scesney said.
He believes more action is needed from state lawmakers to help curb a problem that’s been growing for years.
Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jensen said he’s now planning to lobby the North Texas delegation to find solutions during the legislative session that begins in January.
“I’ll be going to Austin, and it will be one of my top priorities – for Brandon Tsai,” Jensen said.
Criticism about the temporary tag problem grew loud enough in early 2022 for the head of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to resign.
Lawmakers did take action during the previous legislative session.
House Bill 3927 became law Sept. 1, 2021, allowing the Texas DMV to revoke dealer access to temporary tag systems if fraud is discovered.
But it was February 2022 before the Texas DMV implemented a new system to enforce that law.
“While TxDMV has taken steps to stop the fraudulent use of Texas temporary vehicle tags, more can be done, and we will continue to prioritize efforts to improve temporary tag regulation,” the department said in a March announcement on its website.
The silver Chevy Malibu that Tsai was chasing has not been found.
Crime Stoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the driver’s arrest.
Anonymous tips can be submitted at gpcrimestoppers.org or by calling 972-988-8477(TIPS).
And Scesney said the paper tag has almost certainly been thrown out and replaced with a new one.
“Our nation lost a hero last night,” Scesney said.
“This is incredibly tragic. The world is a better place with him in it.”