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Police chases in Lexington County Yesterday

Gaston, South Congaree & Sharpes Hill, SC (By: Paul Kirby) – Fleeing fugitives led municipal police officers and county deputies on three high speed chases in about the same number of hours Tuesday afternoon. In all three cases, the drivers were caught and booked into jail on an assortment of charges that were significantly multiplied by their futile attempts to flee.

In the town of Gaston right after noon, a driver of a small car sped away after Major Stephen Watkins with the town’s police department tried to pull him over. Watkins said that he initiated the stop after he noticed that the paper tag on the car appeared to have been altered.

The driver, in the car that was reported stolen out of the county, led Watkins on a chase that finally terminated when the driver headed down a power line right-of-way and came to a stop in some soft sand. Watkins quickly placed him into custody.

That driver, a habitual driving under suspension offender, has been charged with possession of the stolen car, failure to stop for a blue light, driving under suspension again, and reckless driving. Other charges are being considered because at one point during the chase he steered the car he was driving head on into county deputies that were attempting to stop him.

After he was arrested, the driver complained of a medical emergency. An ambulance was requested and he was transported by Lexington EMS to a hospital to be evaluated prior to being booked into the jail.

Gaston police officers haven’t released that suspect's name at this time.

Shortly after that chase was over, South Congaree Police Chief Josh Shumpert was driving along that town’s Main Street when he noticed two young men in a car beside him that were not wearing their seatbelts. The driver was also texting while he was operating the car.

Initially, Shumpert used his patrol vehicle’s public address system to warn the pair that he would have to pull them over and ticket them if they didn’t comply with these most basic safety rules. They ignored his warning and continued up Main Street with their belts off while texting. As soon as Shumpert activated his warning devices and tried to stop the car, the driver accelerated and sped off at a high rate of speed.

The driver headed west toward Edmund and turned onto Bluff Ridge Road in front of the sand pits. Shumpert said that the car blew through the stop sign at Bluff Ridge and Pleasant View before steering left onto the dirt portion of Old Orangeburg and back out toward South Congaree on Edmund Highway. Eventually the suspect made a complete loop and blasted across South Lake Drive at the Bethany Church intersection.

When the speeding driver showed such reckless disregard for the public at South Lake Dr. by speeding through the stop sign and across the oncoming traffic, Shumpert decided that it was in the best interest of the public if he discontinued the chase. He cut his siren and crossed South Lake only after traffic at the busy intersection had cleared.

Shumpert continued down Bethany Church Road and planned on heading back into South Congaree from Boiling Springs Road. As soon as he rounded the first curve, he saw the suspect’s car had crashed head long into a tree and was smoking

The car came to rest in the yard of Amber Addy Hunt. She said that she was on her rear deck when she heard the crash and she immediately ran through her house and into the yard. She saw the driver, described as a young white male, and the passenger, described as a young black male, run into the wood line west of her home.

Hunt said that she believes that pair either jumped from, or were thrown from the vehicle seconds before it struck the tree. “They were out of the car before it ever hit the tree,” she said during a telephone interview. “They were hurt not from the crash itself; they hit the ground and rolled, jumped up, and ran,” she concluded.

A Lexington County K-9 was on the scene in minutes and the dog and his handler quickly tracked the driver to a hiding spot near the crash site. Because he was injured, a Lexington County EMS unit transported him to a local hospital for treatment.

That suspect has been charged with possession of cocaine, possession of crack cocaine, simple possession of marijuana, possession of a suspended tag, driving under suspension, and failure to stop for a blue light.

Chief Shumpert said that 23-year-old Gerald Ford, Jr. of Lexington County was the driver of the car. He is recovering from injuries sustained in the crash at the Lexington Medical Center where he may be for several more days. He will be booked into the jail later.

The passenger who fled has not been captured. He is not believed to be a threat to the community, but he is still wanted for questioning by the police regarding the pursuit.

A short while later, a Lexington County Sheriff’s Deputy was patrolling near the Gaston and Sharpe’s Hill communities when he observed a motorist who had committed a traffic violation. He activated his warning devices and attempted to stop the vehicle. At that time, the subject initiated the pursuit by failing to stop for the deputy’s blue lights and siren.

The short pursuit ended when the subject swerved to avoid a tire deflation device or spike strips that was placed in the road by another officer. The driver lost control and rolled his car over several times in a hay field alongside Fish Hatchery Road. That driver was ejected from the rolling car and landed in the field some distance from where the crashed car came to rest. He was arrested there without further incident.

According to Captain Adam Myrick of the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, that man is expected to be charged with failure to stop for blue lights and driving under suspension. Further charges are possible once the investigation into this incident is completed.

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