Gaston, SC (Paul Kirby) – Gaston Police Department’s Major Stephen Watkins has been in many police pursuits in his career as many of the area’s criminal elements seem destined to try his driving skills time and again. On Thursday morning, another gave it a go and with assistance from a few friends, the outcome was as predictable as day eventually turning into night. The repeat offender was hauled off to jail and Major Watkins was left with a pile of paperwork just writing up the charges against a driver that racked up multiple charges In a failed attempt to avoid the inevitable trip back to jail.
Major Watkins said he was patrolling the town when he observed a black Ford driving near the intersection of Highway 321 south and Ben Spires Road. Watkins said the vehicle was displaying a paper dealership tag that was one of the worst attempts at faking a tag he’d ever seen. As soon as Watkins activated his Pursuit Charger’s blue warning lights, the driver of the vehicle accelerated down Ben Spires and the chase was on.
The driver tried his best to evade as he led the well-trained officer on a tour of the south end of the county. The driver crossed Cassidy Road, turned left onto Fallaw, and then onto Graball Road. This brought him back to Blackville Road again. Even though Watkins wasn’t shaken for a second, the fleeing driver apparently still couldn’t see the futility in his efforts to lose an experienced officer in a car purposefully built for highspeed pursuits. He also couldn’t outrun the radio Watkins carries that had already been used to call for assistance from across the area.
The fleeing felon crossed over SC Highway 6 onto W.E. Jeffcoat Road where Swansea Police Chief Cliff Hayes, a pursuit driving instructor in his own Charger joined in. At some point, it finally dawned on the driver that he wasn’t going to outdrive or outrun the duo of officers on the road, so he turned into a farm field and accelerated again.
At this point, Chief Hayes took the lead position behind the suspect while Watkins continued toward Sharon Church Road to cut the tenacious driver off and hopefully put an end to the foolishness. With Chief Hayes right on his tail, the driver of the suspect vehicle proceeded to speed around and around in circles before exiting the open field back out on W.E. Jeffcoat Road. He quicky saw the error in that as Watkins was coming straight at him from the other direction!
Still, the obvious outcome didn’t register with the driver and he tried off-roading again behind Antioch Baptist. Eventually, Watkins cut him off and Chief Hayes performed a PIT maneuver on the vehicle, causing it to spin out. It may be worth noting that Hayes also is certified to teach that Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT maneuver) to other officers and does so on a regular basis.
Before the driver could regain control, the backseat passenger decided he was done with the ride and jumped out of the car. That individual lay down on the ground, surrendering. Instead of following his friend’s lead, the driver of the vehicle accelerated in reverse once again in a last-ditch effort to escape. Chief Hayes and Major Watkins used their cruisers to box the vehicle in and the driver finally realized it was over, and was quickly taken into custody
After the suspects were secure, further investigation revealed that the vehicle was reported stolen out of West Columbia in late July of this year. Its driver, Christopher Frick, has had several previous encounters with the Gaston Police Department, including an earlier pursuit that also didn’t end well for him.
The failed attempt to get away Thursday ended with Frick being charged with driving under suspension 6th offense, possession of a stolen vehicle, failure to stop for blue lights 2nd offense, reckless driving, and other lesser charges like possession of drug paraphernalia. He was driven to Lexington where he was booked into the Lexington County Detention Center by the Gaston Police Department again. There he will have to face a judge, explain himself, his behavior, and convince a judge that he will return for his court dates and won’t be a danger to himself or society if he’s allowed to bond out.
Major Watkins said Thursday afternoon that he and the entire Gaston PD certainly appreciated the cooperation during the pursuit from Chief Hayes of the Swansea PD, deputies from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, and an officer from the Pelion PD.