No video made of fatal chase

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Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Monday that no videotape recording exists of a police chase that led to a fatal car wreck.

In response to a request from The Augusta Chronicle for a copy of a video recording of the Saturday crash, Sheriff Strength said the patrol car's video and audio recorders were inoperable that night.

"They went out on Feb. 29 and hadn't been sent out for repairs," Sheriff Strength said.

"It's not that unusual. We have 250 cameras, and they can go out at any time," he said.

He added that even if the camera had worked properly, he would not have permitted media outlets to have a copy "until the investigation is complete."

The chase, which involved sheriff's Deputy Anthony Gregory, resulted in the death of 42-year-old Laura Latimer of Augusta. A Chevrolet Blazer being chased by the deputy struck a car in which Ms. Latimer was a passenger at the intersection of Gordon Highway and Old Savannah Road. The Blazer's driver, Jamie Lee Clark, 19, of Jackson, pulled off after he had been stopped for running a traffic light in the 1200 block of Broad Street.

Deputy Gregory's supervisor twice told him to "break off" the chase, according to an audio account aired on WRDW-TV.

On Monday, Sheriff Strength re-emphasized that he stands by Deputy Gregory's actions as the sheriff's office and the Georgia State Patrol officials investigate the accident.

The sheriff describes such chases as a "necessary evil."

"You can't have a policy and say you're not going to pursue anyone because of course then everybody runs," he said. "This was a terrible, terrible accident, but the cause of this tragedy was the suspect's decision to flee."

Mr. Clark is charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, fleeing and attempting to elude, reckless driving, violation of learner's permit restriction and DUI, according to Sheriff Strength.

The sheriff said the deputy never acknowledged to dispatchers that he had heard an order to back off, which might mean the deputy could not hear his radio.

Deputy Gregory, 26, has worked for the Sheriff's Office for three years and initially worked as a jailer, Sheriff Strength said. The deputy remains fully employed and has not been suspended, the sheriff said.

"He has been a good employee," he said.

Reach Timothy Cox or Adam Folk at (706) 724-0851


AUDIO

- Listen to the police radio recording

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christian134
1
Points
christian134 03/04/08 - 07:52 am
0
0
Yes this was tragic and yes

Yes this was tragic and yes someone should be blamed but do not blame the officers. They are doing their jobs under difficult conditions what with the lack of man power and state of the art equipment. Who among you, when stuff happens will handle the criminal element yourselves--I think not--what you will do however is dial 911 as quickly as possible then sit back and complain why they did not respond fast enough. Stop complaining and start pushing for extra monies to upgrade our police men and women's salaries and enough to hire the extra people needed to provide the protection the citizens deserve as well as the proper backup for each of the officers.

WHATDIDIDO
0
Points
WHATDIDIDO 03/04/08 - 07:52 am
0
0
TALL1, I believe that you

TALL1, I believe that you have had too many tall ones. To even imply that the victim had any fault whatsoever in this incident, is really too sick to respond to.

getalife
4
Points
getalife 03/04/08 - 07:53 am
0
0
Law enforcement needs some

Law enforcement needs some guideline as when to chase or not chase. I think endangering the innocent people on the same highway should be foremost with any rules and guidelines. I feel for the family and for the officer, no winners on this one. But if you have the tag number, insurance info and driver's license, then no chase, just as the audio told him, get a warrant and break off the chase.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 03/04/08 - 08:00 am
0
0
I think the officer like most

I think the officer like most officers in this situation just want to GET THERE MAN/SUSPECT. If this crash had not happen and they caught the individual the officer would have been praised.

martigirl9999
0
Points
martigirl9999 03/04/08 - 08:01 am
0
0
I heard on the news that the

I heard on the news that the chase was called off 4 minutes before the accident happened, do you honestly think that if the deputy would have stopped chasing this guy when the chase was called off, that this story would have a different ending? Going at the speed that this young boy was traveling and being under the influence of alcohol, I doubt he would have slowed down! He was in the wrong no matter what; he should have never ran from the deputy. I feel very sorry for the family of the women killed in this tragedy. All we can do is pray for ourselves and our family as they are on the roads, because this could have happened to anyone!

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 03/04/08 - 08:02 am
0
0
If the perpetrator is charged

If the perpetrator is charged as a juvenile for vehicular homicide, is he set free with a sealed record when he hits 18?

3572
0
Points
3572 03/04/08 - 08:05 am
0
0
I havent heard any sorry to

I havent heard any sorry to the family for the lost of this mother of three. I mean i understand what everyone is saying about the police doing his job but is that good enough. I mean a life has beeen taken. If this deputy had better hearing it may have made a difference. And yes the person ran but i see people run from police everyday and they dont chase them.

bg
0
Points
bg 03/04/08 - 08:07 am
0
0
Thank you to everyone who is

Thank you to everyone who is sticking up for the officer. The Sherriff included! First of all the audio recordings come from the scanner and not the actual police radio so of course sitting on your couch you are going to hear it loud and clear but you are not in a car with sirens trying to maintain control and stop a criminal. Also there was another deputy behind Gregory who also did not hear the last call to break it off as well as several other officers. if the stg. wanted him to stop he had 4 minutes to continuously radio for him to break it off not just sit back and listen to him continue to tell dispatch his locations. His main goal was to stop this guy who was a danger to society. He never wanted anyone to get hurt, it could have easily been his own family. he was not trying to disobey instructions, you cant obey things that you dont hear. Please get ALL of the facts before you cast judgement. His man now has to live with this ridicule forever. There is more to the case which is still under investigation. God bless the families involved and pray that justice will be served. Dont burn your bridges with the cops, karma will come around and you will need their help.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 03/04/08 - 08:10 am
0
0
A 19 year old, drunk and

A 19 year old, drunk and according to the write up driving on a learners permit, then running from the law......I don't agree with high speed chases but this young man is the one who was wrong here, if the cop had backed off and this young man had drove on drunk and killed someone alot of the views on here would be different....you would be blaming the cop for not doing his job....

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 03/04/08 - 08:11 am
0
0
I feel sorry for Ms.

I feel sorry for Ms. Latimer's family and I'll admit I have not heard the audio of the tape but all these post laying blame on the patrol officer, let me ask a question. What would have been the response if this officer had let this drunk driver speed off and not pursued him and down the road he had caused an accident because he was trying to escape and killled someone. More than likely the ones bashing the officer would be saying....why didn't the officer pursue this jerk and keep him off the road, why didn't the officer arrest him when he stopped him the first time. Either way some people will ALWAYS blame the officer no matter what they do.

mable8
2
Points
mable8 03/04/08 - 08:11 am
0
0
When the supervisor told the

When the supervisor told the officer to break it off, the officer should have followed orders, period. His gung-ho tactics has caused the death of an innocent motorist; why is Sheriff Strength not disciplining his errant officer--who whould be fired. The victim's familly now suffers a loss that should never have occurred. As to the driver being chased, one poster called him a "child;" he is NOT a child, the choice to drive and drink was his, and he will suffer the consequences.

momma mia
2
Points
momma mia 03/04/08 - 08:12 am
0
0
The only one here who is

The only one here who is innocent is the poor woman who lost her life for no reason at all.

CryoCyberTronics
392
Points
CryoCyberTronics 03/04/08 - 08:26 am
0
0
It's too bad that the BOYS

It's too bad that the BOYS from Oakland, CA. Are no longer a threat to pay Augusta a visit. Or else the Sheriff would not feel he could make the decision to not take any further action, all by himself... As well for the County Commission, and the Mayor... They're saying "THANK GOD" we don't have a lot of mess to clean up, after not doing our Civic JOBS... Enforcing The Law Enforcement. and Being "The Voice For The Local Government". 'Cause, we don't have the money to give away to the public. and Lawyers for law suites. We're already short, and we need to keep the tax revenue coming in...!!!

godogs
0
Points
godogs 03/04/08 - 08:27 am
0
0
Who is to say if the deputy

Who is to say if the deputy had backed off, this moron most likley would have still driven recklesly as he was afraid and you tend to do stupid things when you are afraid. I doubt very seriously the outcome would have been a whole lot different if the deputy had backed off. Don't think for a moment if the deputy had backed off he would have all of a sudden started driving the speed limit and obeying all traffic laws. Give me a break! The punk didn't leave the scene of the police going 10 miles and hour, he SPED OFF! HE MOST LIKLEY WOULD NOT HAVE SLOWED DOWN AS HE WAS TRYING TO GET AWAY PEOPLE! I would never encourage my children to become police officers. For what they get paid and have to go through. It's dammed if they do and dammed if they don't. This girl was truly an innocent victim and it is sad that parents are raising their children to become thugs and take innocent victims lives by their behavior. Now one family will be visiting their loved one in the cemetary and another will be visiting their's in jail. PARENTS WAKE UP AND GET A HOLD OF YOUR CHILDREN BEFORE YOU ARE VISITING YOUR'S IN THE CEMENTARY OR JAIL. GET ON YOUR KNEES AND START PRAYING AND GO TO CHURCH

justus4
113
Points
justus4 03/04/08 - 08:29 am
0
0
Boy! These guys lie like a
Unpublished

Boy! These guys lie like a rug and get away with it, while innocent citizens die at the hand of incompetent officers. This is a complete and total outrage that evidence would be destroyed. Who authorized the destruction of the tape? Who will be fired? Lies! Lies! Lies! Well, it's the history of the country and some people's inability to be truthful and honest. This is a civics 101 lesson in America....watch your democracy work.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 03/04/08 - 08:41 am
0
0
Bash the police. Bash the

Bash the police. Bash the police. Bash the police. Is that all you people can do? Hope you won't need their help anytime soon. Maybe we can just go with martial law and all will be grand then.

halffull
0
Points
halffull 03/04/08 - 08:42 am
0
0
This is terrible for all

This is terrible for all involved as some have said. I know how the sheriff is suppose to protect his men but I didn't think he should publically give them an excuse for not following officers. Note the officer didn't say he did not here the command the sheriff said he probably didn't. If they cannot hear instructions when the sirens are on we are in big big trouble.
We try to teach young people to take responsibility for their actions but why should they when the highest elected law enforcement office in the county refuses to.
Just say we "jacked up" suffer the consequences and move on.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 03/04/08 - 08:43 am
0
0
Justus, there was no tape to

Justus, there was no tape to destroy. I bet Dep. Gregory didn't have his DVD camera on when this occurred. That would explain why there is no video. If it ain't on it can't record!

Opinionated
0
Points
Opinionated 03/04/08 - 08:44 am
0
0
In my opinion they both are

In my opinion they both are at blame. He was a deputy, not so big and he had someone higher over him. He had someone to listen to and he didn't. There's no reason to defend him. If you decide to go against a direct order from your superior leader, you have negative or posiitive outcomes, you have to live with that. If he were to have caught the guy and noone had been injured the comments would've been different. He knew he was taking a chance so he should just own up to his wrong-doing. As for the 19 y.o., He deserves to be locked up, He took someone's life. He knew what the sacrifices were the moment he put the key in the ignition. No excuses, No exception!!!

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 03/04/08 - 08:45 am
0
0
By the way, RONNIE IS UP FOR

By the way, RONNIE IS UP FOR REELECTION this year. No one is running against him. If you think you can do better then put your name on the ballot! Otherwise SHUT UP!

LOST IN GA.
0
Points
LOST IN GA. 03/04/08 - 08:46 am
0
0
a lot of talk about the chase

a lot of talk about the chase but i have not seen anything about where the crash took place.

halffull
0
Points
halffull 03/04/08 - 08:46 am
0
0
With the track record of

With the track record of Augusta's Finest I think every camera should be functional or should not go on the road including the unmarked ones. It would be interesting to see how many cases would have a different outcome if there had been cameras.

thistownisunbelievable
1
Points
thistownisunbelievable 03/04/08 - 08:46 am
0
0
The innocent person died at

The innocent person died at the hands of the criminal, not the cop. And justus, if you are so down on our REPUBLIC, you could 1) run for office to do something about it or 2) see how the "democracy" works in Cuba, Venuzuela, or N. Korea. Try running this griping in one of those utopias. You may hate America, but at least you have the freedom here to express that hatred.

Thefuturist
0
Points
Thefuturist 03/04/08 - 08:47 am
0
0
Ladies and Gentlemen, the

Ladies and Gentlemen, the state of florida does not allow high speed chases. regardless of the "runner" or not, i am literally petrified to know that i could one day travel with my 2 year old daughter to get an ice cream and some "idiot" running from the law could crash into us and hurt me or worse even hurt my daughter...you all need to think about that...enough said

mommie2
2
Points
mommie2 03/04/08 - 08:48 am
0
0
Being a cop requires making

Being a cop requires making swift decisions at a moment's notice. It's not possible to second guess yourself. Cops, like soldiers, should be supported and not ridiculed. If you think you could do a better job...go sign up.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 03/04/08 - 08:49 am
0
0
This is ONE big test for

This is ONE big test for Ronnie, protecting this officer may be good or bad, Augusta loves Ronnie but if he messes this one up his career might take a hit. Why do Police Officers in situations like that GOT TO HAVE THEIR MAN, it's like if they don't get the perp they failed... This lady is dead because of both the perp and the officer, maybe Ronnie can give that family some of the 5 million he got from the radio station.

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 03/04/08 - 08:52 am
0
0
Justus4, the Sheriff already

Justus4, the Sheriff already stated that the video camera was not working as of Feb 29. Why are you saying that the evidence was destroyed when there is absolutely no basis for that statement? In other words, why are you lying? You need to start looking closer in the mirror.

goAF1023
0
Points
goAF1023 03/04/08 - 08:59 am
0
0
Good to see Sheriff Strength

Good to see Sheriff Strength standing behind his officers.

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 03/04/08 - 09:08 am
0
0
Another undisciplined young

Another undisciplined young person brings heartache to the lives of three families- his own, that of the victim and that of the deputy. What can we do to prevent a recurrence of such reckless behavior? When will we do it?

everwonderwhy
0
Points
everwonderwhy 03/04/08 - 09:12 am
0
0
karmakills123 - You said it

karmakills123 - You said it all. It's always someone else's fault, no matter what the situation. I can't believe that people on this site are blaming the police officer. It makes me sick. the person responsible for this terrible tragedy is the 19 year old.

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