Gaston, SC (James Bowers) – A man who fled from a traffic stop on an ATV Wednesday evening near Gaston has been located and charged according to Major Stephen Watkins of the Gaston PD. He was found after a Lexington Ledger follower spot the man and phoned in a tip that led the police to a house where he was hiding, Watkins said.
The incident started when an officer got behind a green, sport model ATV operating on the road near Oakey Springs Road and Oakey Drive. The ATV had two individuals on it, both were wearing ski masks over their faces. Watkins said they weren’t able to even identify the race of the riders of the ATV at that time because of the masks and the way they were dressed. As soon as the patrol car activated its lights and siren, the driver of the quad initiated a pursuit and sped away.
Officers were able to keep up with the fleeing suspects a short distance until the driver took to the nearby powerlines off-road. At that point, the officer knew that they wouldn’t risk the Dodge Charger patrol car, currently listed as one of the country’s top-five fastest police pursuit vehicles, in a chase down the sandy power lines. These cars are fast, but they simply aren’t made for off-road situations. Other officers quickly converged on the area, but they were unable to locate the ATV or its riders.
At the beginning of the pursuit, the editor of The Lexington Ledger, Paul Kirby, broadcast a warning to the public that the chase was taking place on The Ledger’s social media platforms. The loyal followers of the feeds quickly began to share the original posts and the subsequent updates of the pursuit with their friends. The word of the riders who had seemingly escaped quickly spread.
At some point, Major Watkins took a screenshot of an ATV from the internet that closely resembled the one that had gotten away. He texted it to Kirby at The Ledger and asked that he let his followers know what it looked like. Within minutes someone called the dispatch number provided by The Ledger and provided a tip that led police to a home where the rider had hidden the quad and gone inside. Gaston officers arrived at that location, and after a few minutes talking with an occupant of the house, a young man presented himself and confessed that he had been driving the ATV during the pursuit. Watkins said later, “He manned up and was very honest about the fact that he was the rider. Because he accepted the responsibility of what he did, I was able to give him a little break; it’s always better to work with us if you make a bad decision.” Watkins made it clear that If he had charged the man with failure to stop for blue lights, he certainly would have received more than a handful of expensive traffic citations, he would have spent some time in jail.
Currently, the driver of the ATV has been charged with DUS 2nd, reckless driving, and a number of other serious moving violations resulting from the pursuit. Major Watkins said that he directly attributes the capture of the driver to The Ledger’s followers and their willingness to assist the police in making Gaston a better place to live. “Our working relationship with The Ledger has always been great and allowed us to capture several suspects in the past that might have gotten away otherwise. This is just another example of the public helping by getting involved and working with police,” he concluded. The passenger of the ATV was not charged because officers weren’t able to positively identify that person, and it was not clear that he was doing anything other than hanging on for dear life during the pursuit.
The Ledger's editor, Paul Kirby, said after the suspect had been caught, "We are always happy to help the police in the performance of their duties. This man is so lucky he wasn't hurt, or hurt someone else during the chase, because he could have seriously hurt himself or someone else. I credit the followers
of The Ledger, not us, for doing a great job of spreading the word so quickly."
Photo Caption: Picture thought to be the suspect riding a quad in the dirt, not on the road. picture sent in by a reader.