Local News

11/15/2012

Chief: Deadly chase proper

By LOUIE BROGDON The Brunswick News

Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said police found evidence of alcohol and marijuana in a car involved in a high-speed chase Tuesday that ended with the deaths of three Brunswick residents.

Just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, Officer Carl Evans attempted to stop a 2007 Toyota Corolla driven by Candice Lynn Smith, 29, at Perry Lane Road and Ga. Spur 25 on a suspicion that Smith was driving while impaired.

Evans activated his emergency lights while turning south on the Spur behind the Toyota, and Smith allegedly accelerated to 100 mph. After a four-mile chase along the Spur, the Toyota struck the rear of a private ambulance in the right lane, killing Smith and two 33-year-old passengers, Coray Lee Lemon and Cedrick S. Daniels.

Despite the fatalities, the pursuit was properly executed, Doering said Wednesday.

Doering said police found two open bottles of alcohol -- one containing vodka and the other gin -- along with a partially burned marijuana-filled cigar, commonly referred to as a blunt, in the wrecked car. Additionally, police found two prescription pill bottles, one containing hydroxyzine hydrochloride and the other containing hydroxyzine pamoate, which are antihistamines, Doering said.

One of the passengers in the car was wearing a military-style backpack and heavy-duty work gloves, Doering said. A hammer was found in the trunk.

After reviewing the pursuit and a dash-mounted video of the chase, Doering said Evans entered into the chase appropriately, and he was not under any further review. "There was no question, he was in policy," Doering said.

The department policy on pursuing vehicles is in line with state and federal law and is largely left to the discretion of the pursuing officer and his or her supervisor, Doering said.

"The decision to pursue or not to pursue begins with the officer. Once they determine the conditions -- including the time of day, weather conditions, traffic conditions and the offense type -- all these things are considered before they pursue," Doering said.

The on-duty supervisor is able to review the circumstances and call off a pursuit if necessary, but that was not the case Tuesday, Doering said.

"Considering a driver, who was already driving dangerously or recklessly, that is already happening whether we continue to pursue or not," Doering said. "Our policy is based on law -- state and federal law -- it is that any officer may pursue on any offense. It's a judgment call."

Because there were only two other cars passed on the roadway during the pursuit, Doering said traffic was light enough not to pose a significant danger to the public. He also said the Toyota was not being driven erratically because it only left its lane twice.

"The biggest danger she posed was the speed, and she may have done that whether we pursued or not," Doering said.

A patient in the ambulance, which was transporting him to Focus by the Sea, was taken to the Brunswick hospital of Southeast Georgia Health System for treatment of "non-incapacitating injuries."

The ambulance driver, Ryan Philip McVey, 30, of Savannah, and a 24-year-old passenger from Rincon were not seriously injured.

The collision was still under investigation Wednesday by the Georgia State Patrol.

Watch police video of the chase