GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Attorneys representing families of two victims in a deadly crash on Battleground Avenue earlier this month is talking with the Guilford County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) about its pursuit policy.
Stephanie Warshauer, 32, and her friend Allie Bolick, 29, were riding into the intersection of Battleground Avenue and New Garden Road around 11:30 p.m. on October 7 when police say another car ran a red light and smashed into them. Police say that car was a stolen vehicle that was speeding away from a Sheriff's deputy when it crashed.
The three people in the suspect car, Lee Manuel, 42, Theresa Monique Kingcade, 34, and Bruce Wayne Hunt, 30, were also killed.
Attorneys Drew Brown and Jeffrey Peraldo with the Greensboro Law Center is representing Warshauer and Bolick's families. They met with Sheriff BJ Barnes and other representatives from his office and asked them to make some changes to the pursuit policy. All involved were able to view the dash cam video from the deputy's car at Tuesday's meeting. The video verified the deputy was driving 128 mph down Battleground Avenue.
"All of this cannot take away how horrible It was that this guy fled the scene," explains Brown. "The guy should have stopped. We're not saying that at all. But we have to be smart as a community on how we chase and what we saw was an officer going up to 128 mph through a construction zone on battleground on a Saturday night and the results are predictable. My clients have lost their children and they don't want to see that happen to anybody else."
Brown and Peraldo want to the GCSO to consider a speed cap for deputies at 100 mph. They're also asking that deputies follow the Greensboro Police Department's (GPD) pursuit policy if they're in city limits. The two law enforcement agencies share jurisdiction in the city.
"Officers are required to address the situation in the moment when adrenaline is flying," explains Peraldo of the GCSO policy. "It's a split decision and they're expected to weigh the seriousness of the violation, the danger to the public and then make that decision. It's a recipe for what happened down on Battleground."
Peraldo explains GPD's policy is clearer about when and where to pursue, saying officers are supposed to base decision on facts, not just perceptions. They're also supposed to only chase cars if they're involved in an offense that is or could be violent, like a burglary or a DWI. In other scenarios, officers are supposed to radio in for permission.
The Sheriff's Office pursuit policy says a deputy's decision to chase depends on several factors, like what the charges are against the driver, speed, surrounding traffic and road conditions. Deputies are also supposed to back off on chases if it becomes too dangerous for other drivers or pedestrians. But it doesn't specify specific situations about when to chase or not.
Jim Secor, the Sheriff's Attorney, says they'll be considering Brown and Peraldo's requests this week. He says the Sheriff maintains his deputy did nothing wrong the night of the accident and that their current policy is in compliance with all North Carolina laws.
He says the Sheriff will be meeting with his command officers to review the policy and determine whether or not it needs changing.
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