Gaston, S.C. (Paul Kirby) – Gaston police officers were able to take a large amount of various types of drugs, weapons, and almost $13,000 in cash off the street Friday night after a car pursuit that ended when the suspect crashed his vehicle which then caught fire. The suspect is recuperating at a local hospital before he is booked into the Lexington County Detention Center.
According to Major Stephen Watkins of the Gaston Police Department, he was patrolling the Town Friday night when he got behind a vehicle that’s tag, when run on Watkins' in-car computer, came back as a suspended plate because the car had no insurance. When Watkins activated his Pursuit Charger’s warning devices, the driver failed to yield and instead sped away initiating the pursuit.
The driver fled down Gardner’s Terrace Road running parallel to Hwy. 321 south and Charleston Highway. He turned onto Calico Court and ran through a yard before ending up on the road again. He sped over to Varn Road. Still not willing to give up, the driver turned onto Appleton Court, and out onto Pine Ridge Drive heading toward that town. Some of these are unimproved, small roads the driver was using to try and shake Watkins.
While Watkins was hanging right with the eluding driver, officers from Pine Ridge, the Cayce Department of Public Safety, South Congaree, and Springdale were vectoring toward the speeding cars, trying to get in position to assist. Eventually officers from Pelion, Swansea, and deputies with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department also arrived to assist. Captain Poole with Gaston PD was involved by now as well.
Major Watkins said that the driver cut off his vehicle’s lights when he turned onto Williams Circle in Pine Ridge hoping that would help him shake the officers attempting to stop him. He quickly lost control of his vehicle and smashed into a tree! Watkins immediately leapt from his car and began shouting loud, verbal commands for the driver to get out with his hands visible. At this point, Watkins said he noted the car’s engine had caught fire after the crash. The major said that he couldn’t see if the suspect had complied with his commands but knew he needed to do something since the suspect was still in the burning car. He ran toward the vehicle, was able to open the passenger door, and assisted the suspect in getting out.
After the fire was extinguished, Lexington County EMS transported the suspect to a local hospital for treatment. He remains there today recuperating from his injuries. He is always under the watchful eye of a law enforcement officer.
After the suspect had been taken away by ambulance and the fire was out, officers searched his vehicle. They located several bags of crack cocaine totaling 61.5 grams. There were also three bags of a crystalline substance that field tested positive for methamphetamine. Those bags totaled 71.5 grams. A book bag was recovered that had 113 grams of marijuana in it. They also seized a gun and $12,800 in cash in various denominations. Finally, there was also all the items necessary to weigh and package the drugs for distribution.
The driver is being charged with driving with a suspended license 3rd offense, failure stop for a blue light, reckless driving, possession with the intent to sell marijuana, trafficking methamphetamines and cocaine, and unlawfully carrying a pistol. Gaston officers are seeking advice whether he also should be charged with possession of a weapon during a violent crime.