Gaston, SC (Paul Kirby) – Gaston police officers are searching for the driver of a car who initiated a pursuit in the town that ended when officers backed off the chase after the driver became so reckless the officers were afraid he might kill himself or someone else. Gaston officers tried to pull over the car they described as a silver or gray Pontiac Grand Prix when the driver failed to yield, and the car sped off at a high rate of speed. This happened just as darkness was beginning to fall Wednesday evening.
The pursuit proceeded through the heart of the small town with the officers close behind. All the while, eyewitnesses began posting to The Ledger’s running commentary a description of the vehicle. They confirmed what officers believed, that the car was in fact the silver/gray Pontiac, possibly a four-door with a young male behind the wheel, splashed with dirt and mud. In fact, the lead patrol car was unable to get a complete plate number for the vehicle because many of the letters and numbers were obscured by mud.
Eventually, the chase ended up with the fleeing car following both paved and dirt roads. At times, the car was raising a dust cloud that obscured it from officers and the officers from each other. As the driver seemed more desperate to escape, speeds reached in excess of 100 mph. Near Pine Plain and Basil Roads in the Swansea community Major Stephen Watkins advised he was backing down from the speeds because he felt the driver might lose control of his vehicle and go off into the woods. At one point, there were even long skid marks in a sharp curve that had Watkins and the other officers searching the woods for the car with their spotlights in case the driver had crashed and needed medical attention.
The community was very helpful in providing the police with information. Witnesses continued to provide tips on The Lexington Ledger’s Facebook post as the pursuit passed them. Others who were outside of their homes, and even several who were walking along the roads, provided information about the direction of the fleeing suspect. At one point, it was determined that the car probably made it to Redmond Mill Road and was heading back toward Swansea. The search was called off after it got dark and officers were unable to locate the suspect.
Major Stephen Watkins, spokesman for Gaston’s Police Department, said that their department appreciates the assistance of the public and other agencies that responded. “Everyone is so willing to help, and we often are able to solve crimes with the tip we receive from citizens. We also couldn’t do what we do without the officers from other departments coming to our aid.”
Watkins also said that it’s sometimes not worth the risk of continuing a pursuit, even if the suspect is the only one who might be hurt as a result of the chase. “If someone kills themselves over something crazy, there are no winners in that situation,” Watkins said. “In almost all cases, they eventually will be caught.”