Gaston, SC (Paul Kirby) - Friday was an action-packed day for officers from the Gaston Police Department as they continued working to maintain order and remove from the streets those who think they can break the law in the small Lexington County town. In a chase that happened Friday afternoon, they arrested one man. In a second chase later that night, they broke off their pursuit after the on-duty supervisor determined that the risk of continuing the chase far outweighed the capture of the suspect who was believed to have been driving a stolen car.
In the first pursuit, Major Stephen Watkins said that officers noticed a car in the 100 block of Woodtrail Drive that aroused their suspicion. They ran the car’s license tag on their in-car computers and it came back as suspended out of Georgia. When they attempted to stop the vehicle, the driver initiated a pursuit that proceeded at relatively low speeds. That driver eventually led officers down Wayne Street toward Busbee Road. He ran into traffic at that intersection and Watkins and Sgt. Marzol were able to box him in with their cruisers. Once they had him detained, they found that he was driving under suspension and he was arrested. This was his third arrest for that offense.
Later Friday night, officers were patrolling Hwy. 321 south when they got behind a blue car with a paper tag near Ballpark Road. After establishing probable cause to stop the vehicle, officers tried to pull the car over. Instead of stopping, the driver initiated the pursuit and sped away with the officer following. The car turned onto West Ballpark Road, cut over to Woodtrail, and eventually led the chase over to Fish Hatchery Road. At times, the fleeing car reached speeds in excess of 120-mph.
Major Watkins, the ranking officer, was involved in the pursuit and was constantly evaluating the risk the chase was posing to the public and at some point, he made the decision to discontinue the pursuit. “We got a good look at the car, and the driver was taking so many chances I just felt if we kept giving chase, he might kill himself or someone else. At that point, I decided we would break-off and continue to try and locate the car through investigative methods.” Watkins said that officers did search the area and the roads the car was last seen on in case he had crashed, and no one had seen or heard it. “We were afraid he may have gone off the road and into the woods at the speeds he was travelling,” Watkins said. “We continued to circulate in the area for some time, but thankfully we never found the car or any accident associated with the erratic driver.”
Watkins said that they believe that the car that was fleeing was a blue Pontiac G-6. These cars could be bought with a variety of engines, some of them pushing more that 240 hp. The first version that was shown as a concept car had a supercharged engine mated with a high-performance transmission. This was all packed into a small body, and many that were produced were extremely fast; fast enough for an overzealous driver to kill themselves if they pushed the limits of the vehicle past their ability to control it.
The one that fled Friday had a Meeting Street Motors paper tag on it. Watkins said that they suspect that the car was stolen, but were working to confirm that. He asked that is anyone had any idea where this car might be, or who might have been driving or riding in it Friday night, call the Gaston PD at (803) 785-2521.
In an interview with Gaston restaurant owner Val Leon Friday, he said that he supported the continued efforts of the Gaston officers to clean up the streets and run the bad guys out of town. “There was a certain reputation that Gaston had, and at one point, I was afraid that this was hurting my business. The police are doing a great job of changing that image and I hope they continue to do that. It can certainly help if the good people feel safe, not threatened, when they come to my place to eat and enjoy themselves.”
If you have any information crimes that have occurred, call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME SC.