Two in custody after Gaston pursuit, manhunt

Gaston, SC (06/10/2021 Paul Kirby) – Two people are in custody after fleeing from a routine traffic stop in Gaston Wednesday night. According to Chief Stephen Watkins of the Gaston Police Department, the pair fled in a full-size SUV while pulling a trailer with another vehicle on that.

Chief Watkins said that he originally tried to stop the SUV because the tag it displayed was registered to another make and model of vehicle. When he activated the warning lights on his cruiser to initiate the stop, the driver failed to yield initiating the pursuit.

It quickly became clear to the chief that the suspects were looking for an area where they could flee on foot. For some distance, the passenger had his door open and toward the end, even put his feet out while the vehicle was still rolling.

When it became evident to the fleeing driver that he was not going to outrun the chief’s Pursuit Charger, he stopped in the middle of Meadowfield Road at Joe Road and both suspects ran. Because the SUV with the trailer and the towed vehicle were a part of a criminal investigation, police officers had to close Meadowfield Road for more than an hour while a manhunt ensued. They also had to have time to process that vehicle and have it removed from the road. Chief Watkins said after the suspects were taken into custody that they opened the road as quickly as possible given the situation.

Officers from other agencies flooded the area and a perimeter was set. The driver was taken into custody quickly however, the passenger ran out of his shoes as he fled and made it to cover. That passenger left a pistol in the vehicle where he was riding, and drugs were located as well. Because officers were aware that their suspect would posses a gun and they were not sure if the one they located so quickly was the only one in he possessed, the manhunt became even more intense. Officers took every precaution to ensure that the citizens of the area and all law enforcement officials involved didn’t encounter a desperate armed suspect.

A description of one of the suspects was quickly broadcast and officers circulated in an ever-widening perimeter as more joined the search This allowed the boundaries of the area to be expanded. Eventually, the passenger was located and taken into custody.

Chief Watkins said that the young man that was at large the longest was wanted by the SC Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) after he had escaped from a facility where he had been sent for evaluation. He also had warrants for his arrest from the City of West Columbia and Anderson County. He was taken back to Broad River Road and transferred to DJJ’s custody again later Wednesday night.

The other suspect was booked into the Lexington County Detention Center where he is awaiting a bond hearing.

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