Two North Augusta brothers were killed Wednesday morning when their car struck a tree as they fled a Richmond County deputy.
Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton identified the men as Derrick Darden, 23, and Deante Darden, 22.
According to the sheriff’s office, Deputy Bert Gates, of the DUI Division, spotted the vehicle shortly after 2 a.m. driving erratically and speeding along Broad Street.
Gates stopped their vehicle at Fourth and Reynolds streets, but it sped away when the officer got out of his car to approach it, the office reported.
He pursued the car across the Gordon Highway bridge into North Augusta, where the driver lost control and hit a tree in the 500 block of Carolina Springs Road.
Gates, a 22-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, complied with department policy on vehicle pursuits and will not be disciplined, Lt. Calvin Chew said. Gates was not injured in the chase, which authorities said lasted no more than one minute.
“It was quick. The deputy was calling for assistance, but they didn’t get there till after the fact,” Chew said. “He did everything accurately.”
Jennie Giles, great-aunt of Derrick and Deante Darden, said the brothers were in downtown Augusta at a nightclub Tuesday night. She does not know why the men fled from police.
“I’d describe them as OK guys. They have been in some small stuff (with the law),” Giles said.
According to Aiken County court records, Deante Darden was charged with driving with a suspended license and reckless driving in August 2011. He had two previous charges for driving without a license.
Derrick Darden and Deante Darden were charged in Richmond County with possession of marijuana in October 2009. In 2011, Derrick Darden was charged with possession of cocaine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Giles, who visited with the men’s mother Wednesday morning, said the family was devastated. She questioned whether the police chase should have been stopped before the wreck occurred.
“Innocent people out there could get hurt, not just the people they are chasing,” Giles said.
Neither man was wearing a seat belt and both died of body trauma, Carlton said. An autopsy was to be held Wednesday in Newberry, S.C., and toxicology tests are pending.
Their mother, Antionette Hamilton, of North Augusta, last saw them Tuesday night, when they were leaving for a birthday party. Hamilton told her sons she would see them the next morning.
“I’m torn apart,” Hamilton said through tears. “I think (the deputy) should have stopped.”
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, like most law enforcement agencies, works with neighboring jurisdictions to pursue suspects, Chew said. Crossing the Savannah River into South Carolina was an ordinary act.
“When they get into a chase, we back off,” Chew said. “They never got there.”
Hamilton said her sons lived with her off and on.
Giles said the brothers spent most of their time together and had the same friends.