Video shows police pursuit that ended in double-fatal crash

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A brief police pursuit early July 1 ended in a car crash on Dorchester Road, killing two people and injuring the teen suspect.

It was the second police pursuit that ended in a collision that night in the city.

North Charleston Police Department released dashboard-camera video and dispatch records that provide insight into how the double-fatal crash unfolded.

Patrol officer Andrew Johnson told Charleston County dispatchers around 1:17 a.m. he was pursuing a vehicle that ran a red light at Dorchester Road and Olivia Drive, video shows.

The officer activated his lights and followed the Buick LeSabre as light rain splashed off the police cruiser’s windshield. He informed dispatchers traffic was light as the two cars sped in the dark toward Michaux Parkway, video shows.

The fleeing vehicle gained several hundred yards on the officer before crashing into a 2005 Lexus sedan at Michaux Parkway.

“Go ahead and roll fire and EMS,” Johnson told dispatchers. “Vehicle possibly on fire.”

Johnson, his pistol drawn, approached the LeSabre as smoke billows from its hood.

“Driver, let me see your hands!” Johnson yells.

The driver is heard moaning in the video. The officer orders the driver to place his hands behind his back — he eventually does. The officer cuffs him and says his leg is broken, video shows.

The officer tells the person to remain still as he complains about leg pain.

“EMS is already enroute, man — Why did you run?” Johnson asks.

“I’m a teenager,” the driver says.

“That doesn’t mean you have to run,” Johnson responds.

“My mom’s gonna kill me,” the driver says.

The officer tells the boy his mother would rather he were alive.

The chase lasted less than a minute, records show. Two people in the Lexus were killed in the crash, which is being investigated by South Carolina Highway Patrol. The teen was transported to the hospital for his injuries.

The two victims were identified as Mary Alice Dent, 32, and Shamricka Latrice Dent, 36, from Goose Creek. They died on the scene due to injuries from the collision, Charleston County Coroner, Bobbi Jo O’Neal, said in a statement.

“The City of North Charleston and the North Charleston Police Department wish to extend their condolences to the families affected by this underage and unlicensed driver,” North Charleston Police Deputy Chief Ken Hagge said.

Hagge did not identify the age of the driver. The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has not identified the deceased.

Earlier that night, a North Charleston patrol officer briefly pursued a stolen vehicle before it crashed into a pole, according to an incident report.

The officer was patrolling about 11:20 p.m. June 30 on Rivers Avenue when she spotted a white Ford Fusion pull into the Circle K gas station near the Interstate 526 interchange, the report states.

A similar vehicle had been reported stolen in a carjacking earlier that day.

The officer confirmed the vehicle’s tag matched the one from the stolen vehicle and tried to stop the driver, but he got back into the car and fled the business, the report states.

After a brief chase, the suspect crashed the vehicle into a pole at Sherwin Williams, located less than a block away on Rivers Avenue, the report states.

The driver was identified as a juvenile male. A .22-caliber handgun was found in his pocket during a search, the report states, and marijuana was found in the car.

The boy was taken to the hospital to be checked for an ankle injury. After he was medically cleared, he was taken into custody by the Department of Juvenile Justice, according to the report.

South Carolina Highway Patrol is also investigating that crash.

Several local pursuits in recent months have ended in crashes, some of them fatal.

Officers initiated a high-speed pursuit after a vehicle that was recklessly driving on May 16 near Ashley Phosphate Road and I-26.

Though stop sticks ended the pursuit, the driver, identified as 27-year-old Ladarrius Christian, a resident of Memphis, Tenn., fled the car and was fatally struck by a passing vehicle, North Charleston sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Knapp said.

And just two days before, a drive-by shooting investigation on Johns Island turned into a high-speed chase that ended in the death of two people.

Officials briefly chased the vehicle they believed to carry the shooting’s suspect on May 14, before losing sight of the car. It was later found crashed into a tree near Brownswood Road and Dogpatch Lane with the driver and passenger dead inside, Knapp said.

Nationally, more than 6,000 fatal crashes involving police pursuits occurred from 1996 to 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System. That translates to an average of about one each day. A third of those killed were people in a vehicle not involved in the pursuit or bystanders, government data shows.

The average number of fatal crashes increased to about 380 per year from 2016 to 2020, the latest year for which data are available. In 2020, 455 fatal crashes were tied to police pursuits. In South Carolina, 65 fatal pursuit-related crashes occurred between 2016 and 2020, federal data show.

Officers are required to exercise “sound discretion” to determine when to engage in a pursuit, a NCPD policy states.

This includes considering if the seriousness of the crime warrants a high-speed chase, the possibility of apprehending the suspect or being able to locate them at a later time, the conditions of the road and if the risk to the public is greater than the need to pursue a suspect.

“Officers must remember that the citizens using the public highways are not working for or expecting police pursuits, therefore officers should not assume that other motorists are aware of their presence,” the policy states.

Pursuits should be terminated if they create a “clear and unreasonable danger” to officers, motorists or pedestrians, which outweighs the need for immediate apprehension, or if they can apprehend the suspect later, the policy states.

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