Suspect chased at speeds up to 100 miles an hour

August 3, 2011 4:30:00 AM PDT
A police chase that began in Garner Monday morning and ended on I-40 in Raleigh is raising questions. When are high-speed chases necessary?

The pursuit started at the Lowe's in Garner when a driver stopped for an expired license plate took off just after 8 a.m. The suspect crossed into neighboring Raleigh driving well over the 45 mph limit.

Police say 26-year-old Martin Chavious took the ramp onto the Beltline.

According to Garner Police Department radio traffic obtained by ABC11 Tuesday, the officer involved in the pursuit told dispatch, "We are currently on 440 about to pass by Rock Quarry, speed's about 100 miles an hour."

ABC11 asked Garner Police Chief Brandon Zuideman about the pursuit. He says he rewrote his department's chase policy to make it more flexible and less structured.

Asked if an expired tag is worth chasing, "To my knowledge that wasn't the situation yesterday," Zuideman said.

"What was the initial charge?" dispatch asked during the chase. "Expired registration, expired inspection," was the response.

During the chase through Garner, Raleigh and Cary, Chief Zuideman says he listened to the radio traffic.

"It appears I have SHP behind me," one of the responding officers is heard saying on the radio traffic recording. "He's weaving in and out of lanes. Speed's about 80-miles-an-hour right now."

"The gentleman certainly was speeding, um, but there was very little if any reckless driving," Zuideman said.

"Westbound passing Person/Hammond Street, uh, Hammond Road exit," the officer is heard saying on the recording. "10-4. Westbound passing Hammond." "Speed's 80 miles an hour, still weaving in and out of traffic."

"Changing lanes is different from cutting vehicles off, moving across four lanes at one time. There's different levels of, I think, how you consider that," the chief explained.

But even Bill Woods of Garner, a law and order guy who told ABC11 that he always backs the police, wonders if a traffic weaving, hundred-mile-an-hour chase during rush hour over an expired plate may have put the public in unnecessary danger.

"That's a little a bit excessive. They have radios they can chase them with as well," he offered.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol was also involved in the chase. It gave ABC11 a statement Tuesday evening.

"On Monday, the Garner Police Department attempted to initiate a traffic stop and the driver refused to comply. As a result, our agency was formally requested to assist. Part of our mission is to assist and support other law enforcement agencies as was the case here," said First Sergeant Jeff Gordon, Public Information Officer of the Highway Patrol.

Zuideman told ABC11 he has to balance concerns about the safety of a pursuit verses the need to let criminals know they won't get away with their crimes if they flee.

"That's the bottom line here, isn't it?" asked ABC11.

"Well, that's a consideration, absolutely," Chief Zuideman responded. "I don't think it's the bottom line, but I think it's a consideration."

More often than not, police catch suspects. Experts say running only puts the public in danger because many police agencies have liberal pursuit policies.

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